Unintended Consequences

As numerous administrations have discovered, even the best planned policies often have unintended consequences. Sometimes, the ramifications are clearly negative. One example is the U.S. decision to arm the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan, a group which later evolved into the Taliban. Another is the toppling of the Saddam regime in Iraq, which paved the way for the formation of IS and emboldened the nuclear aspirations of Iran.

In other cases, they have personal repercussions.

The 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, written by then-Senator Joe Biden, was very popular when then President Bill Clinton signed it into law. Clinton, was an icon for the left, would later deeply regret the move, after the bill would later lead to a significant increase to the prison population, causing severe overcrowding.

In the case of the latest border-crossing statistics, the political consequences are less clear.

According to a surprising set of government figures released Wednesday, and reported by the Los Angeles Times, the number of people who were apprehended trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border illegally did not decrease all that significantly after the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy began this year. This does not however mean that the policy didn’t help reduce illegal immigrants, as the uproar over the policy presumably convinced an unknown number of would be illegals not to even try to cross the border.

At the same time, it appears that there was a significant decrease in the number who attempted to cross legally.

An official with Homeland Security, which includes Customs and Border Protection, told the Los Angeles Times that the number of illegal crossings fell 8 percent from last month, and 22 percent from its highest point this year in May, when “zero tolerance” started.

In July, Border Patrol apprehended 31,303 people crossing the southwest border illegally; compared to 34,095 in June and 40,333 in May. However, that decline was expected, due to an annual dip due to the extreme heat in the area at that time of the year.

The government and advocates for immigrants have traded accusations about this phenomenon.

The Homeland Security official blamed smugglers, advocacy groups and the media for telling immigrant parents that families were being separated at the bridges, which caused them to cross illegally instead.

Immigrant advocates for their part have complained that U.S. immigration officials stopped families on border bridges in recent months and prevented them from entering.

The official denied the notion however. “There are places where we have higher capacity, where asylum seekers might be processed quicker, but we are not turning people away” at the bridges, he said.

In a related development, the Associated Press reported that new government statistics underscore the fact that when it comes to those who are in our country illegally, border crossings are only part of a much larger picture.

More than 700,000 foreigners who were supposed to leave the United States during a recent 12-month period overstayed their visas, the Homeland Security Department said Tuesday. There were 701,900 visa overstays from October 2016 through September 2017 among visitors who arrived by plane or ship — more than the population of Vermont or Wyoming.

An estimated 40 percent of the roughly 11 million people in the country illegally stayed past their visas.

When one includes those who arrive by land, the number of overstays are much larger.

Unlike those who cross into America illegally, for the most part, the illegal overstayers aren’t from Latin America. Canada occupies the top slot for overstays, followed by Mexico, Venezuela, the United Kingdom and Colombia. Nigeria, China, France, Spain and Germany.

As is true across the border when it comes to illegal immigration, the line between upholding the law of the land and showing hospitality to those seeking a better life for themselves and their families is a fine one. America is not only a nation built by immigrants, it is also a country in which illegal immigrants play a vital role in the economy, filing jobs that no one else wants.

Instead of simply pointing fingers, it is time for all parties involved to take practical, realistic and humane steps to deal with the contentious issue. The goal must be to encourage foreigners seeking to come to America to do so in a legal and proper way, and while it is up to the government to reduce the obstacles in their path, those purporting to advocate on their behalf must do their part in reducing the misinformation that is being spread.