Brookings: Up Front
The January 8 address to the nation by President Trump about the illegal immigrant crisis rooted in the migrant caravans from Central America was based on two falsehoods: This is not a crisis and the migrants are not illegal.
In fact, the number of apprehensions on the southwestern border of the U.S. is at its lowest point since the early 1970s, though recently, the number of families being apprehended at the border (consistent with the idea that these people are fleeing violence altogether as families) rose.
According to U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services, to request asylum in the U.S., applicants must be physically present in the country or make their request at a port of entry. In other words, there is nothing illegal about people at the border submitting asylum claims (those claims can be denied, too, without making so much noise about it).
It looks like the president hasn’t read the law.
Nonetheless, President Trump keeps looking for a solution where there isn’t any.
Asylum requests will persist with or without a wall; as my economist colleagues Treb Allen, Caue Dobbin, and Melanie Morten have shown, physical barriers do little to stop illegal crossings. In fact, almost half of the undocumented migrants in the U.S. are visa overstayers who entered the country legally. A wall cannot stop that.
Protecting the borders is crucial, but doing so requires coordination. That is why the Trump administration’s decision to pull out of the Global Compacts on Migration (GCM) and on Refugees (GCR), adopted by most country-members of the United Nations, was ill advised. The withdrawal constituted a big disservice to the American people, and in particular, to the ability of the government to safeguard the border.
In fact, almost half of the undocumented migrants in the U.S. are visa overstayers who entered the country legally. …