NEW YORK – President Donald Trump’s strong reaction to a caravan of illegal immigrants from South America headed towards the US-Mexico border, to seek asylum or sneak in – suggesting a desperate by hook or crook method – has diffused a thorny situation. Reports say the caravan, comprising of more than 1,000 migrants, mostly from Honduras, is dispersing, disband after a protest in Mexico City.
Trump did right to protest vehemently, order the National Guard to stand vigil at the border to stop infiltration. It’s the duty of a nation to protect its border 24×7 from this kind of flagrant violation, an attempt to bend US laws, avail of American generosity through coercive action.
A Buzzfeed report said that according to organizers, about two-thirds of people in the caravan were planning to cross into the US “undetected or asking for some type of protection like asylum.”
Similar caravans have snaked their way to the US border before too, including last year. This was, however, the largest in terms of number of people that congregated as a group. The 2,000-mile journey began at Tapachula near the Guatemalan border on March 25, reported Reuters. Organized by the US-based advocacy group Pueblos Sin Fronteras, it almost seemed like an advertised ‘invasion’ of sorts. The organization calls the caravan the ‘Via Crucis’, or ‘Stations of the Cross march’.
The fact of the matter is that despite rigorous efforts of the US government, illegal immigration is on the rise, especially from South America. According to the Pew Research Center, the number of immigrants from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras rose by 25% from 2007 to 2015. During these same years, the total US immigrant population increased by 10%.
Many illegal immigrants have temporary protection from deportation under two federal programs – Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Temporary Protected Status (TPS).
While many are sympathetic to ‘Dreamers’ who cling on to hope that DACA will be extended, and others analyze Honduras is riven by high rate of homicide, gang activity and domestic violence, it doesn’t take away from the fact that people who come to the US illegally broke laws in the first place. They should be punished like any other offender.
There should be no exception for that, including for DACA recipients.
It’s not just the question of around 700,000 individuals, according to official estimates, who are protected by DACA. What about millions of children who emigrated illegally, and are growing up in the US, outside of the DACA net? Should they be thrown out once they reach of legal age or allowed to stay on like the DACA recipients right now, perhaps get permanent residency?
It’s a never ending charade.
It’s weak US laws and weaker action by the US government – hampered also by civil suits, pro-illegal immigrant advocacy groups and sanctuary cities – to curb the flow of illegal immigrants that prompt mustering of so-called ‘caravans’.
Ironically, caravan also means a vehicle equipped for living in, towed by a car, and used for vacations. For some repeat offenders who breach the border, are deported, but make their way back into the US, the connotation of caravan may seem more like that.
While the US at present is doing well economically, it’s not going to be perpetual sunshine on that front. When there is a downturn, a recession, jobs dry up again, and towns face dire financial crisis, the issue of illegal immigration will make vicious mockery of the legal system that allowed it to go on merrily for too long because of bipartisan hurdles on Capitol Hill.
The US civilian workforce includes eight million unauthorized immigrants, accounting for 5% of those who were working or were unemployed and looking for work, according to Pew estimates. These illegal immigrants are overrepresented in farming and construction occupations (26% and 15%, respectively). In all industries and occupations, though, they are outnumbered by US-born workers.
The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) has calculated that at the federal, state, and local levels, taxpayers shell out approximately $134.9 billion to cover the costs incurred by the presence of more than 12.5 million illegal aliens, and about 4.2 million citizen children of illegal aliens. That amounts to a tax burden of approximately $8,075 per illegal alien family member and a total of $115,894,597,664. The total cost of illegal immigration to US taxpayers is both staggering and crippling, it says. In 2013, FAIR estimated the total cost to be approximately $113 billion.
The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has stepped up their enforcement drive against illegal aliens, with 143,470 arrests in fiscal 2017, a 30% rise from fiscal 2016. Despite the overall rise in arrests in 2017, ICE made about twice as many arrests in fiscal 2009, the year Obama came into office (297,898). This total generally declined in subsequent years.
The Trump administration need to not only increase the number of ICE agents and install technology to stop infiltration at the border, which resembles a sieve at many places – and it’s very much a security threat too – but seek a legal solution to end the practice of sanctuary cities.
The Sacramento Bee reported this week that more than one million illegal immigrants have received driver’s licenses, according to the California Department of Motor Vehicles.
Twelve states plus Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico allow illegal immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses. These immigrants were free to receive driver’s licenses anywhere in the US until 1993, when California became the first state to restrict access and 45 others followed suit.
Assembly Bill 60, authored by then-Assemblyman Luis Alejo in 2013, required California DMV offices to issue driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants as long as they can prove their identity and residence within the state, reported the Bee.
The problem is that it’s this kind of welcome mat that encourages caravans of illegal immigrants to try overwhelm the border, settle in the US, seek financial and residency rights.
(Sujeet Rajan is Executive Editor, Parikh Worldwide Media. Email him: email@example.com Follow him on Twitter @SujeetRajan1)