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Immigration: Politics and Facts Don't Match on the Border

Newsweek asked me to do a piece looking at the current state of the political debate over border security. The request turned out to be well-timed, because it coincided with the release of the latest annual figures on the number of apprehensions at the border, which remains the best measure we have of how many people are trying to enter the United States illegally. The numbers are quite striking: in FY2011, just 328,000 people were arrested at the border with Mexico, a 27 per cent drop from the previous year despite the gradually recovering economy. That number is the lowest since the early 1970s. Further, with some 20,000 agents now patrolling the border, compared with 2,000 or so four decades ago, the number of those who succeed in entering the United States illegally is certainly a fraction of what it was in the early 1970s. Is the border secure yet? If not, it’s getting awfully close. Yet the political debate remains focused almost entirely on further ramping up border enforcement. Thus the headline on the piece, which can be read here: Immigration: Politics and Facts Don’t Match on the Border.

Edward Alden blogs on border security, visa policy and immigration issues. Read More