While the crisis at the border rages on, we can’t lose sight of the larger trends driving so much illegal immigration in the first place. The WSJ dug into public data on minors who attempt to cross the border and found that, even though judges rule many of these minors should be deported, only a small proportion actually end up leaving the country:
Last fiscal year, immigration judges reached a decision in 6,437 juvenile cases, according to the court data. About two-thirds of the minors were ordered deported or allowed to leave the country voluntarily, and 361 were given legal status. In most other cases, the judge terminated the case, meaning the child wasn’t ordered out of the U.S. but wasn’t given explicit permission to stay, either. […]Separate data from the Department of Homeland Security show that in fiscal 2013, about 1,600 children were actually returned to their home countries—less than half the number who were ordered removed—suggesting that some are evading deportation orders.
We need to keep in mind that the plight of these children and the conditions in the countries they are leaving are nothing short of tragic. And we should also remember that the United States has been immeasurably enriched by immigration in the past, and will continue to be so enriched in the future.But all countries have both a right and a duty to control the flow of people across their borders. The unescapable fact is that this humanitarian tragedy unfolding before our very eyes is in large part being driven by the perception among many desperate people across Central America that we do not enforce our immigration laws. Parents are calculating that it’s a good bet to risk the physical and sexual abuse of their children at the hands of unscrupulous middlemen “agents” in the hope of getting them across the border into the United States. They understand that if their child makes it, chances are she will get to stay here.The WSJ study illustrates the point plain as day: our broken immigration policies are creating perverse incentives. Given how leaky our deportation process has become, the only sane and expedient way to stop encouraging people to recklessly risk their lives and the lives of their children is to control the border. That has to come first in the sequencing. Only then can we move on to creating an immigration policy that makes any sense at all.