President Donald Trump appears to think building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border will solve unauthorized immigration and other issues at the border. Stats from the last few years tell a completely different story.
Trump signed two executive orders Wednesday that call for the immediate construction of a wall and issue directives to crack down on unauthorized immigration, increase security at the southern border and expand agencies’ deportation powers.
The order describes building the wall as a measure “to prevent illegal immigration, drug and human trafficking, and acts of terrorism.” Prioritizing a wall ― with an estimated cost in the billions ― has been widely condemned by Latino groups and lawmakers as a discriminatory attack on immigrants.
Building a wall to keep Mexicans out is also out of touch with the current realities of unauthorized immigration. Since the recession, more undocumented Mexican immigrants are actually leaving the country than entering it, according to the Pew Research Center.
And as the Mexican economy has improved, the number of people attempting to illegally cross into the U.S. from Mexico has dropped dramatically over the last 15 years, according to Quartz:
As of 2014, the majority of the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. are from Mexico, according to Pew’s population estimates, but their numbers have been declining.
At the same time, unauthorized immigration from other countries has risen, driven by people coming from Central America, Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Pew notes that many of the people from those regions are entering the country legally and overstaying their visas ― something a wall won’t prevent.
On Wednesday, Trump claimed the wall would also help Mexico prevent unauthorized immigration from countries to its south. He addressed the “unprecedented surge of illegal migrants” from Central America, many of whom are families seeking asylum from violence in their countries.
Central Americans outnumbered Mexican immigrants apprehended at the United States’ southern border in 2016. The total number of apprehensions increased last year compared to 2015, but was still lower than in 2014 or 2013. The apprehension figures give a sense of trends in the larger number of total illegal border crossings, according to U.S. Border Control.
Building a wall is impractical for other reasons. It won’t address actual enforcement needs, officials in Texas borderlands told HuffPost’s Roque Planas. U.S. Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas) said a physical barrier isn’t an effective security measure for the area’s rough terrain and protected natural areas. Gilberto Hinojosa, chairman of the Texas Democratic Party, said the Rio Grande Valley area is heavily patrolled by authorities and that they’ve already “reached [their] maximum capacity in enforcement.”
What’s more, it’s not clear how the wall will be funded. Republican leaders said Thursday that Congress would front $12 billion or more for its construction, without clarifying if they’d offset the costs with other cuts. Trump has insisted Mexico will pay for the wall, but Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has repeatedly refused: He reiterated his stance on Wednesday.
Nieto was scheduled to meet with Trump at the White House next week, but said on Thursday that he was canceling. Nieto’s decision followed Wednesday reports that he was considering whether to keep the meeting. Trump lashed out on Twitter earlier Thursday, threatening to cancel as well, but Nieto pulled the trigger first.
During his presidential campaign, Trump frequently targeted immigrants and blamed them for American job losses, criminal activity and terrorism. He claimed Mexico was purposely sending “the bad ones” to the U.S., suggesting Mexican immigrants are criminals and rapists.