NDN Analysis: Obama Deserves Far More Credit for His Immigration/Border Enforcement Record

Throughout the debate over how to build a better immigration system for America, there has been tension over the many competing goals of reform.  Perhaps no piece of comprehensive immigration reform better exposes these tensions than the debate over immigration and border enforcement.  The struggle to craft a strategy that encourages expanding levels of legal trade and travel, discourages unauthorized migration, and keeps the US safe—all while doing so in a way consistent with American values—is no easy task.  It is our belief, after reviewing the data from recent years, that the Obama Administration has in fact managed this enforcement system well and deserves far more credit than they have received for doing a good job on a really tough and highly contentious set of responsibilities. 

Our evidence is in this set of recent analyses that we and other organizations have produced.  In sum, crime on the US side of the border has plummeted; net migration of unauthorized migrants has fallen to zero today; the deportation system is removing far more criminals and border crossers and has de-prioritized law abiding unauthorized migrants living in the US; and even with a far more aggressive and enforcement strategy, trade with Mexico has exploded, almost doubling in the last five years. 

Some key stats from our recent reports:

  • Crime is down across 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.
  • Four of the five high traffic migration corridors across the US-Mexican border are already at or near the Senate bill’s goal of 90% effectiveness rate.
  • Net migration from Mexico has fallen from its 2001 peak of 770,000 people per year to zero today.
  • Since President Obama took office, Immigration and Customs Enforcement has made steps to prioritize removing criminals and recent border crossers. ICE reports that in 2013, 59% of unauthorized immigrants it removed from the US had a criminal conviction, and about two thirds were removed at the border. Of 368,644 removals, only 10,336 individuals were not convicted of a crime, repeat immigration violators, immigration fugitives, or at the border.
  • In 2012 the Obama Administration implemented the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, to allow about one million DREAMers, unauthorized immigrants brought to the US as youths, to work and study legally in the US.
  • Trade with Mexico has jumped from $340b in 2009 to about $550b in 2013.  Mexico is America’s 3rd largest trading partner, and 2nd largest export market.  $1.3billion worth of goods and 1 million people that cross the 2000 mile US-Mexico border each day

While more can be done to make the system even better still, it is long past time for all parties in this debate to give the Obama Administration far more credit than they have received to date for making the border and immigration enforcement system more effective and more humane.   The best way of course to build on this progress is by passing something akin to the already passed, bi-partisan Senate immigration bill.