Photo by John Moore/Getty Images
A man waits to be processed at a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facility in Arizona.
It was the Obama administration's strategic trade-off on immigration: A stepped-up approach to enforcement which, the President hoped, would help win over Republican lawmakers for bipartisan support of a sweeping overhaul of the nation's immigration system.
In the end, with insufficient support for anything broader, the only thing to stick this year has been the enforcement. The Obama administration has deported nearly 800,000 immigrants in the past two years, more than during any other two-year period in the nation's history.
The exact numbers for this year have been disputed: The record figure released last fall of more than more than 392,000 deportations in fiscal year 2010, which topped the 2009 record, turned out to include more than 19,000 immigrants removed the previous fiscal year, as well as a small number of repatriations that would normally have been counted by the U.S. Border Patrol.
The Pew Hispanic Center has a new report out today that crystallizes what U.S. Border Patrol arrest statistics have been indicating for the past few years: The number of undocumented immigrants entering the United States has dropped off sharply, reduced by nearly two-thirds over the past decade.
The recession, which began at the roughly the same time as a federal campaign to boost border enforcement, is a factor. From the report:
The annual inflow of unauthorized immigrants to the United States was nearly two-thirds smaller in the March 2007 to March 2009 period than it had been from March 2000 to March 2005, according to new estimates by the Pew Hispanic Center.
This sharp decline has contributed to an overall reduction of 8% in the number of unauthorized immigrants currently living in the U.S.-to 11.1 million in March 2009 from a peak of 12 million in March 2007, according to the estimates. The decrease represents the first significant reversal in the growth of this population over the past two decades.
As we close a particularly intense month of public and political debate tied to immigration - the protests in Arizona over SB 1070, the controversy over a planned Islamic cultural center near Ground Zero, the talk of "anchor babies" as some GOP leaders push to end birthright citizenship - a couple of stories from the border this week have provided sobering context to the vociferous immigration debate.
On Tuesday in the Mexican border state of Tamaulipas, not far from Brownsville, Texas, Mexican marines discovered a mass grave containing the bodies of 72 migrants, men and women from Central and South America. According to the sole survivor, a 18-year-old man from Ecuador who escaped with gunshot woulds and alerted authorities, the 58 men and 14 women hailing from Ecuador, Brazil, Honduras and El Salvador were on their way to the United States after having illegally traversed Mexico.
The Associated Press has a story and video documenting a disturbing trend: A spike in suicides among U.S. Border Patrol agents. According to the story, at least 15 agents have taken their own lives since February 2008. More from the story:
Federal officials insist the deaths have nothing to do with the agency, which has doubled in size since 2004, or the increasingly volatile U.S.-Mexico border. But administrators have quietly undertaken urgent suicide-prevention initiatives, including special training for supervisors, videos about warning signs and educational programs for 22,000 agents nationwide
Whatever the reason behind the deaths, there is no question that patrolling the border hinterlands is a backbreaking job. It is also one that has become
Last week, as the furor over Arizona's SB 1070 was coming to a head, the late True/Slant posted as one of its final items this intriguing short film about border security, as seen through the eyes of two grizzled and armed border residents. One stalks drug runners, another takes pity on migrants being led by smugglers through brutal terrain. For those who live along the fence, many of whom I've met and interviewed, there is nothing abstract about the debate over border security.