President Donald Trump announced that he will sign the bill to fund the government, including US$1.375 billion for 55 miles of steel-post fencing on the southern border, but will simultaneously declare a national emergency, the very threat he had wielded if Congress had failed to meet his demands for border wall funding.
So, what is the national emergency? In his State of the Union address, Trump warned the southern border was soon due for a “tremendous onslaught” because “organized caravans are on the march to the United States.” He added that the “lawless state of our southern border is a threat to the safety, security, and financial well‑being of all Americans.”
The invasion does not seem to have materialized; the lawlessness is less than meets the eye.
It’s old news at this point, but worth repeating, that apprehensions of undocumented foreigners at the southern US border are at the lowest levels since the early 1970s. The 403,479 apprehended in 2018, was slightly higher than apprehensions in 2017, but significantly lower than the 1.67 million apprehended in 2000 or the more than 1 million per year throughout the 1990s.
Tom Homan, acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, told NPR in 2017 that “the border's under better control than it has been in 45 years." While total numbers are down, the increases are in the numbers of families with children apprehended, hardly a more threatening prospect.
And what about criminality along the southern border? The Cato Institute analyzed crime statistics and found, “Border counties have far less crime per capita than American counties that are not along the border.”Not surprisingly, when the heads of US intelligence agencies briefed the Senate on national security threats in late January they focused mainly on Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea. Hardly a mention of immigrants or the southern border.
We have seen Trump’s fear-mongering before. There are real humanitarian problems at the border, but they have largely been manufactured by the Trump Administration, for example, by blocking asylum seekers from entering at ports of entry and lodging claims. Processing increasing numbers of children and families seeking asylum is not a crisis; it is not only manageable but a responsibility any country should willingly bear.