“The facts set forth before the court portray reactive governance — responses to address a chaotic circumstance of the government’s own making. They belie measured and ordered governance, which is central to the concept of due process enshrined in our Constitution. This is particularly so in the treatment of migrants, many of whom are asylum seekers and small children.”

— U.S. District Judge Dana M. Sabrow,

June 26, 2018

The images of weeping children housed in chain-link cages have horrified the nation. The Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy of imprisoning asylum seekers and wrenching families apart has proved so toxic that it has been forced to abandon it — at least officially — and the administration has been ordered to reunite those already separated.

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives failed to pass a broad immigration bill that would have addressed family separations at the border and the status of Dreamers — another “chaotic circumstance of the government’s own making” resulting from cancellation of the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

It’s hard to imagine what kind of crisis would justify the trauma being inflicted on refugee families and Dreamers. But the fact is, there is no crisis.

Illegal crossings of the southern border have steadily declined over the last decade, last year reaching the lowest level in nearly 50 years. Writing in the Atlantic, City University of New York Professor Peter Beinart points out that, despite a slight uptick this year, drastically falling birth rates in Mexico mean there simply is a far smaller pool of potential migrants. A higher percentage of those crossing the southern border now are fleeing violence-plagued Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

It is these refugees who make up the overwhelming majority of children who have been separated from their parents.

What effect do these illegal border crossings have on American society, that such drastic measures should be taken in response? Claims of an immigrant-fueled crime wave are blatantly false. According to a study by the National Academy of Sciences, “Immigrants are in fact much less likely to commit crime than natives, and the presence of large numbers of immigrants seems to lower crime rates.” The study added, “This disparity also holds for young men most likely to be undocumented immigrants: Mexican, Salvadoran and Guatemalan men.”

The study concluded, “Today, the belief that immigrants are more likely to commit crimes is perpetuated by ‘issue entrepreneurs’ who promote the immigrant-crime connection in order to drive restrictionist immigration policy.”

What of the economic effects of immigration? The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services last year found that refugees brought in $63 billion more in government revenues over the past decade than they cost. The Trump administration rejected the findings.

With falling rates of illegal border crossings, relatively low crime rates among immigrant communities and a net positive economic benefit from refugees, what could possibly be fueling the administration’s brutal crackdown on immigrants?

Marc H. Morial is president of the National Urban League.

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