John P. Judis at The New Republic pointed me to a relevant fact that hasn’t been covered much in looking at illegal immigration into Arizona — the number of unauthorized immigrants has been decreasing in the past 2 years and the rate of illegal immigration was at its lowest point in the past decade nationally. See for example this chart from the Office of Immigration Statistics (pdf) in the Department of the Homeland Security Department:
For the more visual, I charted the data to demonstrate the drop:
And of course, the national data as well:
The larger reality is that border crossings track the economy. The recent downturn has meant fewer illegal entries and more immigrants going home. Before the law, Arizona’s illegal population had fallen 18% in the past year.
If the undocumented immigrant population is falling — including in Arizona — how then do you account for the increasing hysteria? For all the talk of the thousands killed by illegal immigrants, virtually all of these are mere car accidents which are no different than the car accidents thousands of Americans get into every day. For all the talk of an “increasingly violent” border — and there is some justification for this given the struggle going on in Mexico as the military is waging war on the drug cartels with corruption, violence, and abuse apparently rampant on both sides — the violence on the American side has been minimal.
The exploitative use of the rancher Robert Krentz’s murder — like the use of the young boy killed in a car accident, Dustin Inman — is a pure propaganda tactic meant to focus anger. Where is the Marcelo Lucero Society dedicated to the immigrant stabbed to death by a group of high school students who had decided to go, “beaner hopping”? Marcelo Lucero was killed a short drive from where I grew up on Long Island — and his case only came to my attention because the FBI was investigating the Suffolk County Police Department for ignoring hate crimes against Latinos and undocumented immigrants.
But why the surge in anger and hysteria now?
The flip side of the Wall Street Journal‘s point is that even as undocumented immigrants leave during economic hard times, the resentment of them grows. As John P. Judis explains:
During the Great Depression, immigration to the United States from Mexico virtually ceased, but states began arresting and deporting Mexicans, many of whom were in the country legally. The Mexican population of the United States fell by 41 percent during the 1930s. And the same kind of thing is happening again.
Keep these numbers in mind as we hear again and again over the coming months of the “invasion” and of how the problem is getting worse.
[This beautiful image of the Arizona-Mexico border fence by ThreadedThoughts licensed under Creative Commons.]