Statement of Donald Kerwin, Executive Director of the Center for Migration Studies, on the US Border and Border Wall
January 9, 2019
Last evening, President Trump addressed the nation from the Oval Office, asserting that there exists a crisis on our southern border which necessitates the construction of a border wall.
Despite the president’s claims that a crisis exists on the border, the facts demonstrate otherwise. The Center for Migration Studies of New York (CMS) has released several reports which show that border crossings have dropped significantly over the past several years.
A 2016 CMS report showed that net migration from Mexico between 2010 and 2016 dropped 11 percent. The undocumented population from Mexico dropped by an additional 400,000 from 2016 to 2017. Migration from other parts of Latin America, save the Northern Triangle, also dropped significantly. The report’s overall conclusion was that the number of undocumented in the nation had dropped to 10.8 million, a new low. The report can be found at https://cmsny.org/publications/warren-undocumented-2016/
CMS also issued a report which found that the number of persons who have overstayed their visas between 2008 and 2014 had exceeded the number of border crossers. In 2014, overstays represented two-thirds of those who joined the undocumented population. The report can be found at https://cmsny.org/publications/jmhs-visa-overstays-border-wall/
A recent study by several immigrant rights organizations, entitled Death, Damage, and Failure: Past, Present, and Future Impacts of Walls on the US-Mexico Border, details the damage caused to border communities by already existing walls and fencing along the border, and how the extension of a wall would cause economic, environmental, and human harm moving forward.
The human tragedy at our border, where thousands of children and families are fleeing persecution and violence from the Northern Triangle countries of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, is where this administration and Congress should focus its attention.
A series of measures designed to deter these vulnerable populations from fleeing their countries, including family separation, mandatory detention, zero tolerance, and denial of entry at the border are undermining their legal and human rights, guaranteed under both domestic and international law. They are handing themselves over to Border Patrol agents in search of protection, not trying to enter the country illegally. The Administration and Congress should act to end these inhumane policies and provide protection to vulnerable women and children.
The real crisis exists in the Northern Triangle of Central America, where organized crime threatens residents with impunity and there exists a lack of stability and opportunity. Instead of appropriating nearly $5.7 billion for an ineffective and damaging wall, Congress and President Trump should use some portion of this funding to address the push factors causing flight from the region. Addressing root causes of flight is the most humane and effective solution to outward migration.
Instead of shutting down the government over a wall, President Trump and Congress also should enact a legislative package which provides permanent status to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) recipients, immigrant populations who have built equities in our nation. CMS has issued studies on the contributions of each of these populations, which can be found at https://cmsny.org/publications/jmhs-potential-beneficiaries-of-daca-dapa/ and https://cmsny.org/publications/jmhs-tps-elsalvador-honduras-haiti/.
Our nation deserves an immigration system which protects human rights and human dignity while upholding the rule of law. This requires immigration reform which honors our values and traditions as a nation of immigrants. Building walls only divides us as a country and does not address the sources of global migration.
January 9, 2019