A National Disgrace

     Undocumented immigration to the United States is at a 40-year low, according to Border Patrol statistics.
     The only immigration “crisis” our country faces today is that it’s an election year, and congressional Republicans find it easier to beat up and lie about helpless and downtrodden people than it is to do their job, and actually try to help our nation.
     In the past five years (fiscal years 2009-13), the Border Patrol has arrested 2.1 million undocumented immigrants, an average of 429,046 a year. The last time the Border Patrol’s five-year arrest average was that low was in 1969-73.
     Here are annual Border Patrol arrests, averaged over five-year periods, for the past 35 years. All the numbers come from the Border Patrol. (I know the agency has a new name now, but it still refers to itself as the Border Patrol, in its own documents.)
     2009-13: 429,046
     2004-08: 1,007,818
     1999-2003: 1,281,706
     1994-98: 1,374,895
     1989-93: 1,117,917
     1984-88: 1,244,158
     1979-83: 879,806
     You can see the enormous drop in undocumented immigration in the past five years: just 36 percent of the average of the previous quarter century.
     Yet Border Patrol staffing has more than doubled in less than a decade, from 10,819 in 2004 to 21,391 in 2013. And the 2004 staffing was more than twice its staffing in 1995.
     The last time undocumented immigration has been this low was in the five years from 1969-73, when arrests averaged 396,495 a year.
     So why the national uproar about an immigration “crisis”?
     Well, I’ve already told you why, but let’s look at the Republicans’ proposed “solutions.”
     Texas Gov. Rick Perry said this week that he’s going to send 1,000 National Guardsmen to the Mexican border, to round up them immigrants – and send Washington the bill.
     President Obama, suckered with the rest of the country into believing that there’s an immigration crisis, asked Congress for $3.7 billion to speed up deportations.
     And Congress, sensitive as always to its own vile urges, refused: preferring to keep the phony crisis in the news rather than to help suffering people, or admit the truth.
     Look, there is a humanitarian crisis in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, the closest U.S. port of entry to Central America.
     The crisis is that tens of thousands of traumatized children are coming to the United States, some with their mothers, some all alone, because of murderous violence from drug gangs and their own governments in Central America.
     Suffering children are always news.
     Suffering children need help.
     It does not help suffering children to turn them into political ping-pong balls, to stir up hatred against them with calculated lies, to accuse them of bringing “diseases” into the United States, or of trying to “take our jobs,” though child labor is illegal here.
     Honduras, the murder capital of the world, averages 82 homicides a year per 100,000 people: that’s 6,600 murders a year, in a country of 8 million.
     El Salvador, the world’s second most-murderous country, averages 66 homicides per 100,000, according to United Nations figures.
     To put this in perspective, the murder rate in South Sudan is 13.9 per 100,000.
     In the United States, the average is 4.8.
     Speeding up deportations of these children, which President Obama has proposed as a “solution” to this catastrophe, will not relieve suffering.
     Gov. Perry’s insane bluster will not help.
     These children do not resist arrest. Tracking them down and arresting them is not our problem. Figuring out what to do with them is our problem. The Texas National Guard can’t help us with that.
     Some day, if political honesty becomes legal again in the United States, today’s brouhaha over a nonexistent immigration crisis will be seen as what it is: a national disgrace. A vile, pathetic, brutal, dishonest response to the suffering of thousands of children.
     (CNS news editor Robert Kahn is the author of “Other People’s Blood: U.S. Immigration Prisons in the Reagan Decade.”)

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