Get the Facts: Backgrounder on the Southern Border

As the Administration sends thousands of troops to the southern border and considers issuing an executive order to close the border to Central Americans, it’s important to understand who is coming the southern border and why.

This article by the Director of the Mexico Security Initiative at University of Texas in Austin provides cogent background about the conditions producing the wave of immigrants arriving at our southern border during the past spring and summer that prompted the administration’s harsh family separations response.  While the article looks at that prior wave of immigrants, the conditions described in it apply equally to the most recent “caravan” and the people who are part of it.

It is important to point out that contrary to the administration’s assertions, the nation is not experiencing a national security “invasion” on our southern border.    Indeed, apprehensions on the southern border ranged from a high of over 1.6 million in FY 2000 to  a low of nearly 860,000 in FY 2007.   The 396,579 apprehensions in FY 2018 are in line with the number of apprehensions since FY 2010, which have ranged from a high of about  479,000 in FY 2014 to a low of 303,000 in FY 2017.

In addition, under both U.S. and international law, the U.S. must allow those seeking asylum the opportunity to apply for it, whether they enter at or between border posts.  Our nation can handle large numbers of asylum claims if it funds and staffs the asylum offices and immigration courts adequately.   For example, from 1983 through 1987, when civil wars were raging in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua, over a million individuals were apprehended at the Southern border each year.   Our nation was able to  process their claims in the immigration courts without the need to militarize the border or to threaten to close to border to asylum seekers (which will lead to immediate legal challenges).

Let’s not exaggerate either the size or the impact of the current caravan and other waves of Central Americans fleeing the Northern Triangle countries.  We can vet them and give them due process while keeping our nation’s values intact, as we have done many times before.