So much of the public support of the immigration reform rides on education. Immigration is a volatile policy area that so few Americans know much about, even though they think they know. Ever since immigration became a front burner political issue again, every major newspaper has run a story on the border including Damien Cave's story in the the NYT today.
The NYT story, much like the Miami Herald story on February 23rd, does two things very well. First, both stories recognize that gaging and measuring the success of a secure border is very difficult and that official statistics do not indicate those who got through without detection. Second, the two stories also cover multiple sectors of the 1,993 mile long U.S.-Mexico border and point out that apprehensions dropping in one area may mean that people are now attempting to cross in a different area. These two points are improvements in educating the public about the reality of the border, especially the notion that less apprehensions in one sector does not mean success. It just means people have been forced to cross in more dangerous and desolate areas as I explained in a previous post.
However, I was struck at what the two stories left out. First, both stories detailed the physical barriers on the border to prevent unlawful entry and speculated about alternatives to these barriers. Neither story mentioned turning off the magnet that draws undocumented immigrants to the U.S. by seriously beefing up interior enforcement. If U.S. employers stop breaking immigration laws by hiring the undocumented, there should be a drop in attempted entries.
Second, it seems too obvious to say, but it needs to be said that the U.S. has more than one border! And it's not just the other land border with Canada that I'm talking about. Every international airport is a border. According to the Department of Homeland Security's own statistics, 40% of the undocumented population in the U.S. came on a valid temporary visa (tourist, student, business etc.) and then overstayed and became undocumented. These border stories don't address the other borders.
Third, there is little acknowledgement in either article that border crossings from Mexico have declined precipitously in the last two years and that the cause for that historical reversal is in question. It would seem the decline correlates with the recession and fragile recovery and the lack of jobs as Julia Preston reported back in April 23, 2012. I'd like to see reporting of stories that connect the dots between the relationship between interior enforcement and E-verify programs, and border security. Stories that focus on the border alone oversimplify the very complicated immigration phenomenon.