And look: that’s a problem too. At the border, we have the option of either sending people back quickly or releasing them to the United States for the next two or three years. During this time, her case goes through a very slow process in the immigration courts. What happens in the end is that if released to the US, you will almost certainly never return [to your home country].
There is a very reputable study that the [Department of Homeland Security] You looked at what happened to Central American and Mexican migrants from 2014 to 2019. Most of the Mexican migrants were sent back fairly quickly. But 72 percent of Central Americans who arrived between 2014 and 2019 were accepted into the US, and there are no records of their departure. And if you are actually allowed to go to the US and there is no real process to find out what happened to you, then that is a lousy system.
The number of fears on the US-Mexico border is now lower than it was in the mid-2000s. Yet we are now hearing of a “border crisis” in a way that we really did not then. Why? Why is it now viewed as a crisis when the numbers are demonstrably smaller than they were 15 or 20 years ago?
And [the numbers are] Probably lower now than 2019, they just don’t look like that because they are now counting “encounters” instead of “people” and there are large numbers of people trying [to enter] multiple times. So the indeed Numbers are even lower than two years ago, and certainly lower than in the mid-2000s.
What has changed? Immigration became politicized. There used to be a lot more bipartisan consensus on this. Support for immigration was never the same in either party, but there were constituencies that supported them. That has changed. It has become a much more partisan topic and I don’t know if it will ever be reset. It’s difficult to say.
However, not all immigration debates are created equal. Some people may be strong in favor of DACA while being very concerned about illegal immigration. There are a lot of nuances in that. Some Americans look at the border and say, “These are small numbers. We have dealt with larger numbers in the past, and that is an infinitely small number compared to the US population. “For others, it raises the question of the integrity of the system and whether something will work because the US “cannot overcome its own borders”. Regardless of where you fall on that spectrum, policymakers are realizing they need to set the line in order to have further discussions about immigration.
You have been working on immigration for decades. Were you surprised how the conversation about immigration has changed?
Yes, although I think it moved in two directions. Overall, Americans actually are More positive towards immigrants than in the past. At the same time, it has become much more politically controversial. It’s kind of a contradicting finding.
“Immigration” is no longer a niche topic. It has become a national issue. People generally think that immigration is pretty good for the country, but there are very different ideas about what it means and it is more divided by party lines than before. Americans’ warm feelings towards immigration get less warm when you talk about unauthorized immigration at the border – and sometimes I think it’s difficult for people who closely monitor immigration to remember: Even if two-thirds the public have a warm feeling about immigration, a very important sub-group of this group are really concerned about the border being under control – and their warm feelings about immigration will go away if they don’t believe it.