Thursday, May 10, 2018

Five myths about U.S.-Mexico border

A group of Central American asylum-seekers who arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border last week has prompted a new round of debate on border management and security. But some of the rhetoric isn't based in fact. So Christopher Wilson, the deputy director of the Wilson Center's Mexico Institute and a knowledgeable source on border affairs, has debunked five popular myths about crossings at the  U.S.-Mexico border.

The first myth is that the border is out of control. Though retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey's 2011 strategic military assessment described conditions along the border as tantamount to living in a war zone," the Mexico Institute's data analysis shows that all but one of the 23 U.S. counties along the border had violent crime rates lower than the national average for similar counties from 2011 to 2015, Wilson reports for The Washington Post.

The second myth is that a border wall would help the opioid epidemic. President Trump said in March that 90 percent of the heroin in America comes through the U.S.-Mexico border, Wilson reports. But heroin was only the third most frequent cause of opioid-related deaths in 2016. The top two were fentanyl and prescription opioids, respectively. Prescription opioids are produced and shipped within the U.S. Some fentanyl is trafficked through Mexico, but usually in vehicles at official crossings where a border wall wouldn't help, and the lion's share of fentanyl is shipped by mail from China. And though most heroin is trafficked from Mexico, like fentanyl, smugglers mostly bring it in vehicles through legal border crossings.

The third myth is that border enforcement doesn't reduce illegal crossings. For decades, increased border security spending failed to reduce illegal immigration, instead causing immigrants to simply try crossing in more remote, dangerous areas. But border officials have gotten better at catching undocumented immigrants. "And surveys show that Mexican migrants apprehended and returned to Mexico have become much less likely to attempt to reenter the United States, with the share saying they’d try again falling from 95 percent in 2005 to 49 percent in 2015, according to a Migration Policy Institute report," Wilson reports.

The fourth myth is that terrorist groups are exploiting a porous border. In 2014, Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) said least 10 ISIS fighters were caught crossing the border into the U.S. in Texas. In 2015, some reported the Islamic State had a camp outside of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. Both claims were quickly proven false. "As the State Department has reported, Mexico has cooperated closely with the United States on counterterrorism issues, and there is 'no credible information that any member of a terrorist group has traveled through Mexico to gain access to the United States,'" Wilson reports.

The fifth myth is that Mexico has strong border laws and the U.S. has weak border laws. President Trump has bolstered that claim recently, tweeting that the caravan of Central American asylum-seekers was "largely broken up thanks to the strong immigration laws of Mexico," Wilson reports. It's true that Mexico plays an important role in either absorbing Central American migrants by giving them refugee visas or deporting them before they reach the U.S. border, but Mexico also reformed its immigration policy in 2011 to decrease corruption and strengthen protection of migrants' human rights. "As for U.S. immigration laws being weak, that is hard to square with an immigration and border security system that detains and removes hundreds of thousands of people from the country each year," Wilson writes."Rather than a weak legal framework, the United States has an under-resourced asylum and immigration court system. Asylum applications have more than quadrupled over the past decade, causing a backlog of more than 300,000 cases."

No comments: