Immigration Crisis At The Border

Source: U.S. Customs and Border Protection

Immigration has been in the news recently as numbers have spiked across the southern border. Southwest border encounters have reached recent highs as coyotes have been advertising across Central and South America that it is easier to get into the United States now that President Biden is in office.

In FY 2019 there were just under 980,000 border encounters. By FY 2020, the number of migrants dropped to just above 458,000 due to President Trump’s border policies like the Migrant Protection Protocol (MPP). This program pushed some immigrants to have to wait in Mexico until their immigration trial date. He also invoked Title 42 which deported many migrants immediately due to the pandemic but this only allowed them to be deported and the number of recidivism has grown dramatically over the past 2 years. By FY 2021, immigration numbers have jumped to over 1,730,000 persons caught illegally entering the country. This is nearly quadruple the number of migrants caught the previous year. And by FY 2022, which only counts October 2021 and November 2021, there were 338,000 individuals that crossed the border in just the two months alone. This is almost the total for all of FY 2020. It has gotten so bad that even President Obama has said the situation has become unsustainable.

October and November are typically slow months but in 2021 these months have seen historic numbers of migrants entering the country. If this trend continues then there will be a humanitarian disaster on our border in the spring when immigration typically rises in the spring and summer months.

One argument against immigration is to think of the city or small town where you are currently living. What would happen if a million working-age adults were brought into that city? These could be adults of any age, any race, any socio-economic background. These could be a million rich Caucasians or a million rich minorities. What impact would these people have on infrastructure? What impact would these people have on housing costs? Would these million working-age adults have any impact on wages? How would they affect the price of vehicles, groceries, housing, of taxes if you had an extra million people buying commodities? How would these people fit into our economy given that companies can automate several high and low-wage positions throughout their companies?

It is not realistic that a million people a year would move to one city but pushing the issue to this extreme shows what effect a mass of people can have on a city. Rising living costs and low wages have been a struggle for cities for decades and the fight for $15/hour is just one symptom of this situation. Austin, Texas is currently a boom town right now. There are only 150 people moving to the Hill Country a day which puts internal immigration at just under 55,000 people a year. It is more expensive to live in Austin than it is in Houston but wages are higher in Houston. This could explain the rising inequality in the US as the rich get richer while the poor struggle to buy a home or to get a better-paying job.

It is also worth noting that the current situation where the number of open jobs outnumbers the people looking for work is temporary and is propped up by multiple stimmies from the federal government. This is just a snapshot of a single second in our economy and is exasperated by the amount of free money being pumped out by the fed.

There are a lot of arguments in favor of immigration. Just a few of these arguments are that Social Security is bankrupt and we need every taxpayer in the country we can get, immigrants are very entrepreneurial and are typically more likely to start their own business, the number of births in the country is not enough to keep up with the number of deaths and our internal population is currently shrinking, immigrants take several jobs at a time that the number of open jobs outnumbers job seekers by 2:1, and we could be headed into another Baby Boomer situation where the number of senior citizens grows and younger generations shrink. These are just a few of the reasons why the US needs sustainable immigration.

These arguments aside, this is a staggering number of people that will need food, housing, jobs, and other services at a time when companies can automate a substantial number of jobs through the economy. This is not to mention that the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) puts the cost of each refugee at $133,000 over their lifetime and The Hill puts the cost at $80,000 over a 5-year period.

The migrants do pay sales tax, income tax, property tax, and social security which they will contribute about $21,000 more than they take out according to The Hill. But if you factor in other taxes like schools, infrastructure, and police they use more services than they are providing. This is not even counting the fact that people that make under $50,000 pay almost zero federal income tax which does pay into several state programs.  This is causing the US government to pay over $1.8 billion a year in benefits when homelessness, housing costs, and Americans on state benefits have grown out of control in recent years. A study by the Federation for American Immigration Report (FAIR) reported that 92% of the refugees get on SNAP benefits and 70% remain on food stamps after 5 years. This is currently unsustainable while we have large-scale homelessness, vulnerable sections of our population that need aid, and our deficit remains at staggering levels.

If we examine immigration by sector, we can see the areas that migrants are coming in most frequently. This does not include FY 2021 which is likely to be extremely high in most areas. Some areas like San Diego were large immigration hotspots at one time while other locations like the Rio Grande Valley have taken over the top spots. But for FY 2021 every single one of these zones will likely have extremely high numbers of migrants passing through their sectors since immigration numbers have more than almost quadrupled from FY 2020.

Source: U.S. Customs and Border Protection

Pew Research reports that almost 30% of the encounters involve repeat crossers in FY 2020 and 2021 vs 7% in FY 2019. Of the people that crossed in FY 2021, approximately 30% were from Mexico, over 95,000 were from Ecuador (a jump from just under 12,000 in 2019), Nicaragua was just over 56,000, Venezuela was over 47,000 and Cuba was 38,000. Family units are also soaring as they have jumped up to over 450,000 and single adults rose to over 1 million persons crossing the border.

It is also worth mentioning that a lot of migrants do not get caught at all. CIS puts the number of migrants apprehended at 68% but this number is likely much lower since the border patrol has its hands full. Several migrants do not report themselves to authorities at some locations while other locations actually have a bus that will pick up migrants at a bus stop just on the US side of the wall.

One solution could be to settle all of the refugees within 50 miles of the border. If the United States insists on taking in an unlimited number of refugees in an unsustainable process then they can set up portable buildings, give migrants food and water, and even medical care. But if they are kept within 50 miles of the border then migrants cannot find work. This would be a terrific process for refugees as they can live here in safety but it would be a terrible situation for economic refugees that came to America to work. There is already no work in the Rio Grande Valley and if we add 50,000 people a month that would put pressure on local communities to stem the tide of immigration and to make the process a bit more humane and orderly on all the people involved.

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