The New Yorker has this to say about the politics of immigration reform and the border—and what to do with the millions of people who already crossed over it.
Senator John McCain, of Arizona, in a floor speech defending his state’s newly passed law requiring local officers to investigate individuals’ immigration status, described “an unsecured border between Arizona and Mexico, which has led to violence, the worst I have ever seen.” He went on to cite numbers for illegal immigrants apprehended last year “that stagger.”
In fact those numbers are surprising: they are sharply down, according to the Border Patrol—by more than sixty per cent since 2000, to five hundred and fifty thousand apprehensions last year, the lowest figure in thirty-five years. Illegal immigration, although hard to measure, has clearly been declining. The southern border, far from being “unsecured,” is in better shape than it has been for years—better managed and less porous. It has been the beneficiary of security-budget increases since September 11th, which have helped slow the pace of illegal entries, if not as dramatically as the economic crash did. Violent crime, though rising in Mexico, has fallen this side of the border: in Southwestern border counties it has dropped more than thirty per cent in the past two decades. It’s down in Senator McCain’s Arizona. According to F.B.I. statistics, the four safest big cities in the United States—San Diego, Phoenix, El Paso, and Austin—are all in border states.
The problem of illegal immigration isn’t a matter of violent criminals storming the walls of our peaceful towns and cities. It’s a matter of what to do about the estimated eleven million unauthorized residents who are already here. The mass-deportation fantasies of some restrictionists notwithstanding, the great majority of “illegals” are here to stay. That is a good thing, since they are, for a start, essential to large sectors of the economy, beginning with the food supply—the Department of Labor calculates that more than half the crop pickers in the United States are undocumented. National business leaders have no illusions about these basic facts of economic life. Last month, Mayor Michael Bloomberg formed a coalition of big-city mayors and chief executives of major corporations—including Boeing, Disney, Hewlett-Packard, and even Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation—to lobby Congress for comprehensive immigration reform, including a path to legal status for all undocumented immigrants. Bloomberg calls the current immigration policy “national suicide."
Read the whole piece here.. Hat tip to Red Star