Ushering in the New Year with a Border Wall Shutdown

2019 is off to an inauspicious start, with a government shutdown over a manufactured crisis.

As MeBIC has written previously, government data shows apprehensions at the southern border in FY 2017 and FY 2018, whether between or at ports of entry, at less than half of the nearly or over one million apprehensions annually from fiscal years 1983 through 2006.    This is hardly an “invasion”, contrary to the administration’s characterizations.

Moreover, in FY 2018, more than 42% of those apprehended were families with minor children or unaccompanied minors.  Customs and Border Protection (CBP) data shows that nearly 97% of those families were from the  “Northern Triangle” countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, where gang, domestic, and political violence are rampant, as were 67% of the unaccompanied minors, underscoring that these are people seeking protection, which international and U.S. law allows them to do.

In addition, as we’ve posted previously, studies reveal that the U.S.’s undocumented population is at its lowest level in over a decade, and various estimates are that those who entered legally with temporary visas and never left constitute more than 40% of that population, with the proportion of “overstayers” increasing in the past decade.  According to the administration’s own data, since 2007, each year the number of visa overstayers has exceeded the number of undocumented who entered without authorization.  The most recent full-year data available, for FY 2017,  shows over 700,000 people overstayed their visas, far eclipsing the 415,517 individuals apprehended at the southern border that year.

A border wall will do nothing to deter visa overstayers.  Nor will more physical barriers prevent those seeking safety, who have the legal right under both U.S. and international law to apply for asylum regardless of how or where they enter the country, from continuing to arrive based on their belief that the U.S. is a society that offers them hope and safe haven from violence and persecution.

Nor is a border wall the solution to the disfunction that has long existed in the U.S. immigration system, made more chaotic and cruel under the current administration.  President Trump’s willingness to keep the government shutdown going until he gets full funding for his border wall ironically is exacerbating the very real problems that exist.   For example, years-long backlogs in the immigration courts are made worse because the shutdown has furloughed most immigration judges.

With President Trump’s recent statement that the shutdown could last months or years,  despite bipartisan proposals to provide more funding for border security but not the full wall, 2019 is likely to be another challenging year for immigrants and immigration policy.