Is the problem of illegal immigration getting worse? Yes, according to this morning's Intelligencer editorial:
With the federal fiscal year only slightly more than two-thirds over, the number of illegal immigrant families coming into the United States already is higher than for all of FY 2015, according to published reports. Nearly 45,000 families have been caught by U.S. Customs and Border Protection and other law enforcement agencies. The total for FY 2015 was fewer than 40,000. The number of individuals also is surging.
First, even if we accept the editorial's evidence, does the evidence prove the editorial's conclusion that illegal immigration is surging? No, it proves that we caught more illegal immigrants this year than we did last year which is not the same thing because a number of factors may account for the higher capture numbers. An obvious example: more custom's involvement and better border enforcement would certainly improve the capture rate.
Second, and more importantly, shouldn't we look at the numbers for the prior years, or better yet, the long-term trend? Of course we should and here I would argue that the Intelligencer is cherry-picking to make its case. It picked one year (FY 2015) to compare numbers without looking at long-term trends and barely mentioning the previous year (FY2014). Here's what the Department of Homeland Security document cited by the Intelligencer concluded:
Recent monthly increases in the number of apprehensions of unaccompanied children (UAC) and families, are consistent with seasonal patterns and remain significantly below the historical highs seen in 2014. Over the last five months, there have been 21,255 apprehensions of UAC, compared to 34,006 in 2014 and 14,845 in 2015; over the same period, there have been 23,053 family unit apprehensions, compared to 30,602 in 2014 and 13,393 in 2015. Total apprehensions on the Southwest border since January are 161,610, compared to the 226,852 and 137,007 during the same periods in 2014 and 2015, respectively.
Okay, FY 2015 was lower and FY 2014 was much higher. More importantly, what are the long-term trends? As the Washington Post reported earlier this year:
The illegal immigrant population in the United States has fallen below 11 million, continuing a nearly decade-long decline that has the potential to reshape the debate over reforming the nation’s immigration system, according to a study released Wednesday.
The total undocumented immigrant population of 10.9 million is the lowest since 2003, says the report from the Center for Migration Studies, a New York think tank. The number of undocumented immigrants has fallen each year since 2008, the report says, driven primarily by a steady decline in illegal migrants from Mexico. Sharper declines from South America and Europe have contributed to the overall numbers, the report says, even as illegal immigration from Central America — where families with children have flocked across the southwest border in recent months — is on the rise.
(Here is a similar study from the Pew Research Center.)
Of course, the Intelligencer tells us that the problem is getting worse (even if it isn't), blames Obama (it's always his fault), and then tells us that Trump recognizes the problem. Although they haven't yet endorsed building a wall and getting Mexico to pay for it, their editorials on the subject are similar to Trump's comments in their disregard for facts and anti-immigrant sentiment (although they don't use his inflammatory rhetoric). Combine that with recent anti-Hillary editorials and I think you can conclude that they're backing Trump even if they haven't formally endorsed him.
In doing online research for this post, I was a bit surprised to find that the issue of illegal immigration currently appears to be largely confined to certain right-wing websites -- most of which support Trump's nativist rhetoric. In the Eastern United States, anti-immigration stories and editorials from actual newspaper/periodicals appear to be rare with the Wheeling Intelligencer and Washington Times being among the prominent exceptions. (Note - in my opinion, the Washington Times has few peers when it comes to anti-immigrant articles. See here for example. One of the disturbing trends that I've noticed is our local "newspapers" use of WT's articles for the basis of editorials.)