Former Vice President Mike Pence, amidst speculation about a potential 2024 presidential run, made a bold statement about the impact of immigration policies during the Trump administration. Pence claimed a staggering 90% reduction in illegal immigration due to the border wall and the “Remain in Mexico” policy.
Trump’s Immigration Policies
Pence highlighted the immigration policies implemented during Trump’s tenure during Wednesday evening’s GOP Presidential candidates debate.He claimed a substantial reduction in illegal immigration, crediting this reduction to the construction of the border wall and the “Remain in Mexico” policy.
The online magazine PolitiFact highlighted that Pence’s claim primarily focuses on two aspects: the border wall and the “Remain in Mexico” policy. However, data and experts suggest a more complex reality.
“Remain in Mexico”
The “Remain in Mexico” policy, initiated in late January 2019, sent certain asylum seekers to Mexico during their immigration court proceedings. While this policy likely impacted immigration, it was not the most widely used enforcement tool. Its impact is challenging to quantify accurately.
Border Wall Construction
Before the Trump presidency, there were already over 650 miles of barriers at the southwest border. During Trump’s tenure, a few more miles of primary barriers were added. The key aspect is that the administration mainly replaced older barriers, making it hard to attribute immigration declines solely to the construction of new barriers.
‘Cherry Picked’ Figures
According to PolitiFact, Pence was not correct whatsoever to claim a dip in illegal immigration, and said that there had been a “300% increase in illegal immigration from February 2017, Trump’s first full month in office, to his last full month, December 2020,” arguing that: “One way to get close to Pence’s purported 90% illegal immigration decrease is by comparing data from May 2019, the month with the highest apprehensions during the administration, with data from April 2020, the month with that year’s lowest enforcement actions. But that’s a severely cherry-picked period.”
The Pandemic Influence
The global COVID-19 pandemic significantly affected immigration patterns. Title 42, a public health policy, authorized immediate return of most immigrants back to Mexico. The increased use of this policy decreased the use of other programs like “Remain in Mexico”. The pandemic’s influence on immigration patterns must be considered when analyzing any immigration reduction during Trump’s presidency.
Border Security and Its Impact
Attributing a 90% decline in illegal immigration exclusively to the border wall and “Remain in Mexico” policy is difficult. Multiple factors, including the pandemic and other enforcement measures, played roles. Experts suggest that immigration trends are influenced by a complex array of factors, making it challenging to pinpoint one specific action as the reason for changes in migration flows.
It is impossible to conclusively prove a direct 90% reduction attributable solely to them.
The complexities of immigration trends necessitate a more nuanced understanding of the factors at play.
What the Experts Told Us: Time to ‘Raise The Bar’ At The Border
Daniel Di Martino, a Ph.D. candidate in Economics at Columbia University, whose research focuses on migration, told 19FortyFive that the number of people attempting to “cross the southern border is that there’s a correct perception that if you claim, without any evidence or story, that you’re persecuted in your home country, you will be let into the United States.
Di Martino, who is also a Graduate Fellow with The Manhattan Institute think tank, argued that the US “need to raise the bar for persecution claims at the border before people are let in and we need to more than double the number of immigration judges to deal with millions of pending applications.
“The goal to secure the border should be detaining everyone until their asylum case is decided, and that can only be done if we can reduce the wait time from over 5 years to a couple months.”
Georgia Gilholy is a journalist based in the United Kingdom who has been published in Newsweek, The Times of Israel, and the Spectator. Gilholy writes about international politics, culture, and education.
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