GOP Attacks On Obama’s Immigration Enforcement Record Are Ridiculous

Yesterday, a group of Republican Senators repeated one of the great canards of the Obama era –  that our immigration and border enforcement system is less effective today than when Obama took office.  By virtually every measure we have, this is simply not true.   With far greater resources, better strategies and improved cooperation with Mexico, the Obama Administration has in fact made the border safer, the immigration system far better while also allowing for an enormous expansion of trade with Mexico (visit here for a deeper dive on these arguments and more). 

Let’s review some of what we know: 
Crime is Down on US Side of the Border - Crime is down along the US side of the border.  The two largest border cities, El Paso and San Diego, are the two safest large cities in America today.
Border Patrol Far More Effective - Four of the five high-traffic migration corridors across the US-Mexico border are already at or near the Senate bill’s goal of 90% effectiveness rate.  Many of the nine corridors have seen significant increases in their effectiveness rates in recent years.  
Flow of Unauthorized Immigrants into US Has Plummeted – The increased effectiveness of the border patrol along the border, and the deterrent effect of more aggressive removals of those crossing the border has helped dramatically slow the flow of unauthorized migration from Mexico.  This flow has fallen from its peak of 770,000 people in 2001 to zero today.  Looking at it another way, under President Bush, the undocumented immigration population grew by 3m, or almost 400,000 a year.  Under President Obama there has been no increase in the overall size of the undocumented population.  The flow has essentially stopped. 
The System Is Deporting Far More High Priority Unauthorized Immigrants -  The system is removing far more people of consequence from the US than before.   According to ICE data, 59% of those deported in 2013 had criminal records, up from 36% a few years ago.  And fully 98% of those removed were either caught trying to illegally enter the country or were interior removals with criminal records.   In 2013, the number of overall removals was at approximately the same level as the last year of the Bush Administration, and the average number of formal removals has been far higher under Obama than Bush.  Prioritizing the removals of murderers and border-crossers over hard-working moms is just smart policy.
While Providing Opportunities for Young People To Contribute – In another smart improvement in immigration enforcement, the President has offered temporary relief from deportation and work permits for more than a million DREAM-eligible youth, allowing these young people to more fully contribute to American society.  
Trade Across our Border With Mexico Has Almost Doubled - Trade with Mexico has jumped from $340b in 2009 to about $550b in 2013.  Mexico is now America’s 3rd largest trading partner and 2nd largest export market.  $1.3 billion worth of goods and 1m people now cross the 2000 mile US-Mexico border each day.  This trade supports millions of jobs on both sides of the border.  
So what is the big idea these tough Senators propose to make the system better?  Move resources to deporting non-criminal migrants in the interior of the country.   The result of this in practical terms will be to weaken the highly effective border deterrence system established in recent years, and to cause a drop in the number of criminals we are deporting in the interior.   In essence, the President’s critics want to re-establish the Bush era system which did not prioritize murderers over moms, and simply went after all unauthorized immigrants in the interior regardless of their criminal history.   The outcome of this strategy will be in fact to weaken the enforcement system in the US, not strengthen it. 
This is no idle debate.  Last year the House GOP passed something known as the King Amendment which would achieve the same thing the Senate Republicans are advocating for – the roll back of the DHS’s successful new enforcement priorities, a vote that would among other things revoke the DACA program for DREAM eligible youth. The excuse coming from the House GOP today on why they cannot move forward on immigration reform is that the President’s policies have weakened our immigration and border enforcement system – when it is clear that this is not true, that the system is far better today and that their proposals will actually weaken the system not strengthen it. This argument, still alive and potent inside the House GOP is simply ridiculous, and is not a legitimate reason to hold up moving ahead on immigration reform.   If they want to once again turn their back on the clear majority of Americans – and their Speaker – who want a better immigration system they simply are going to have to come up with a far better excuse.