DALLAS — President Donald Trump is sending federal troops to the U.S.-Mexico border and taking other steps to stop the Honduran migrant caravan headed for the United States.
It’s unfortunate that it’s come to this, but it’s the right thing to do.
Millions of foreigners dream of coming to the U.S. because of the three pillars of our society: freedom, economic opportunity and the rule of law.
And for most of its history the U.S. has been a welcoming country. The Department of Homeland Security says the U.S. granted 1.18 million people lawful permanent residence status or green cards in 2016. The average annual green-card rate for the past 30 years has hovered around 1 million.
But those in the caravan seek to force their way into the country — legally or otherwise — just as they bulldozed past the barricades set up by Mexican officials.
While the number of migrants entering illegally is down from two decades ago — there are an estimated 11 million here now — illegal entries are growing again.
Reuters claims border officials arrested nearly 400,000 people at the U.S.-Mexico border in 2018, up from 304,000 the previous year. That influx is complicating officials’ ability to manage and process the immigrants, especially those with children.
However, those were mostly individuals and smaller groups; this caravan was organized before it left Honduras.
According to The Wall Street Journal, “Honduran congressman Bartolo Fuentes of the left-wing Libre Party” claims credit for organizing it, and numerous immigrant organizations financially support such efforts. The question is why now?
One reason is foreigners see our immigration system is overwhelmed and seek to take advantage of it.
Syracuse University’s TRAC system cites 765,000 pending immigration court cases nationwide, up from 629,000 last year and 200,000 a decade ago. The average wait for a court appearance is 717 days.
That backlog allows immigrants to start their new life here, and many will choose to fade into the background rather than face an immigration judge. According to the Justice Department, 39 percent of immigrants who applied for asylum in 2016 failed to show up for their court hearing; it was 43 percent in 2015.
It’s also possible that caravan instigators wanted to influence the midterm elections by trying to embarrass the Trump administration — perhaps hoping for a repeat of the public-relations beating the administration took because of family separations. If so, it appears likely to backfire.
A Rasmussen poll found that 51 percent of voters believe Trump should stop the caravan from entering the U.S. illegally; 38 percent disagree.
Democrats recognize the bad optics of what some are calling an “invasion” storming our southern border and are concerned that could energize conservative and independent voters, neutralizing Democrats’ hoped-for “blue wave.”
Those who are defending the caravan claim the migrants are poor and looking for safety, good jobs and a better life at a time when the booming U.S. economy needs workers.
And that’s likely true for the large majority. But it would be naive to think that some freeloaders, criminals and people who wish us harm won’t see this as an opportunity to slip in undetected.
Actually, immigrant advocates should be rebuking the caravan rather than defending it, because it will almost certainly anger the public and make immigration reform more difficult.
Those who don’t want a wall on our southern border will come closer to seeing one built if the marchers force their way in. And if the caravan is successful we can expect more to follow.
Ironically, the immigrants are coming to the U.S. decrying the lawlessness in their home countries. Yet many of them are willing to break our laws to enter or remain.
Addressing border security is one of Trump’s biggest concerns. And the caravan is making his case for him.
Merrill Matthews is a resident scholar with the Institute for Policy Innovation. He holds a PhD in the Humanities from the University of Texas.