U.S. Immigration is Big News in Central America

by Joe Guzzardi
[cartoon id="226947"] South of the border between the United States and Mexico, the presidential race is being watched with keen interest. In Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, local newspapers are tracking two major headline stories: the coronavirus and President Donald Trump versus his challenger, Joe Biden. La Prensa Libre, Guatemala’s leading daily, is reporting on U.S. immigration topics as part of a series titled “La Crisis Migratoria en Centroamerica.” Because the two candidates’ immigration positions are well-known south of the border, thousands have decided that now is the time to go north. Getting into the U.S. interior before Biden takes office in 2021, assuming that’s the way the November election plays out, may represent their best chance of being included in the amnesty the former Vice President has often vowed to grant. On his website, Biden promises to send Congress, “on day one,” legislation that will grant amnesty to 11 million unlawfully present aliens. Polling that shows challenger Biden comfortably ahead of Trump has already encouraged a new migrant wave headed toward the Southwest border. Department of Homeland Security September data shows that Customs and Border Protection agents apprehended nearly 55,000 migrants, the highest total this fiscal year. Acting CBP commissioner Mark Morgan warned that, in addition to the amnesty lure, the Western Hemisphere’s worsening economic conditions and COVID-19 spikes add another pull factor. “Get ready,” Morgan alerted border state residents, “We’re already seeing the (migrant) numbers increase.” Although far from perfect, Trump’s achievements in transforming U.S. immigration policy into a system that benefits Americans are significant. William H. Frey, a Brookings Institute analyst, found that some of the president’s immigration initiatives have contributed to slower U.S. population growth. Newly released Census Bureau projections showed that natural population increases - births minus deaths - declined to the lowest level “in decades.” Since the Census Bureau identified immigration and births to immigrants as the leading U.S. population growth driver, by extension then, fewer immigrant arrivals will mean slower population growth. Title 42 is another variable in the Trump White House’s approach to enforcing immigration law, and has fallen mostly beneath the establishment media’s radar. The Public Health and Welfare regulation allows the federal government to immediately transport Mexican nationals caught attempting to cross into the U.S. unlawfully to the nearest international bridge where they will be walked back, or to use CBP’s word, expelled. But it has resulted in an unintended consequence that helps explain the recent surge in border traffic. The returned migrants, knowing they’re unlikely to face consequences for re-entry, return to the U.S., often several times. But at a minimum, the approach to deterring asylum seekers and others hoping to illegally enter the U.S. interior sends the message that immigration enforcement is a Trump administration priority, one that could vanish under a Biden presidency. Trump’s accomplishments have fulfilled, at least partially, average Americans’ immigration vision. Immigration should continue, but at levels that are consistent with helping working U.S. citizens. The historic average annual immigration intake, 250,000, has been replaced by an unsustainable million-plus lawful permanent residents per year, which has become the new norm for more than two decades. Biden’s views are in sync with the elite - Beltway lobbyists, academia, Silicon Valley and Congress’ donor-dependent class. But Main Street America wants less skilled and unskilled job competition from abroad. For many Americans, the days leading up to November 3 have been an endlessly contentious, undignified campaign. Before long, Americans will speak at the ballot box, and assuming a clear-cut winner emerges, the pre-election dust-up between the two candidates and their parties should settle down - at least for a few weeks. - Joe Guzzardi is a Progressives for Immigration Reform analyst who has written about immigration for more than 30 years. Contact him at [email protected]