Central American migrants climb on a north bound train during their journey toward the U.S.-Mexico border, in Ixtepec, Mexico, Saturday, July 12, 2014.
Eduardo Verdugo/AP

Border crisis, once seen as ‘Obama’s Katrina,’ eases

The political world is far better at focusing on a burgeoning crisis than following through on the resolution. There was a time last year, for example, when everyone was convinced the IRS “scandal” was a massive controversy comparable to Watergate. But when facts emerged and the allegations proved baseless, most lost interest and neglected to tell the public the “scandal” was bogus.
More recently, a lot of very serious claims surrounding Veterans Affairs turned out to be wrong. The falsehoods generated considerable national attention, while the truth was largely overlooked.
And then there’s the humanitarian crisis at the U.S../Mexico border, including unaccompanied children from Central America. As recently as two months ago, this was labeled “Obama’s Katrina” – a crisis so severe that it would undermine Obama’s presidency and raise lingering doubts about the efficacy of the federal government.
Danny Vinik noted this week that it turns out, this “might not be that big of a crisis anymore.”
The Department of Homeland Security released new figures on the number of apprehensions along the Southwest border Monday and the numbers continue to plummet, for both unaccompanied children and adults with children. “In July the numbers of unaccompanied children were about half of what they were in June,” DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson said in a statement. “August was even lower – lower than August 2013 and the lowest since February 2013.”
Consider a chart I put together based on the Homeland Security data:
There are a few angles to keep in mind. The first is why, all of a sudden, no one wants to talk about this anymore. In his pre-Labor Day press conference, President Obama tried to draw attention to the progress at the border, but this was drowned out by a boisterous discussion about the color of his suit.

Second, it’s very hard to say with confidence exactly what’s caused the recent trend. Vinik noted that the Obama administration’s ad campaign in Central America may have helped get the word out, and Mexico stepping up enforcement likely contributed to the progress.
And third, let’s not forget what the White House’s critics on the right had to say during the debate on this crisis. Many Republicans insisted the way – indeed, the only way – to address the problem was to start deporting Dream Act kids and deploying National Guard troops. Even at the time, the GOP policy prescription was ridiculous, but it’s even clearer now that conditions have improved considerably after ignoring conservative demands.
There’s still a problem in need of attention here, and while the tallies have obviously dropped sharply, they’re not zero. Policymakers should work responsibly to address this.
But it’s not “Obama’s Katrina,” which was a silly label to put on this in the first place, and it’s not proof that we need to follow Steve King’s and Ted Cruz’s advice when it comes to U.S. immigration policy.