Mothers from Honduras traveling with their children prepare to get into a U.S. Customs and Border Protection Services agent's truck after crossing the Rio Grande near McAllen, Texas, July 3, 2014.
Photo by Rodolfo Gonzalez/AP

What is the ‘working group’ working on, exactly?

It’s been a few weeks since President Obama presented Congress with a pretty credible package to address the humanitarian crisis at the U.S./Mexico border. Congressional Republicans have made clear that they don’t like the White House’s proposed solution, though they have no alternative of their own.
At least, not yet. Robert Costa reports that House Republicans are nearly ready to present their own proposal, which would mandate deploying National Guard troops for no particular reason, and require reforms to the Bush/Cheney law that provides a legal process for these unaccompanied Central American children.
Rep. Kay Granger (R-Tex.), who led the House GOP “working group” tasked with tackling the issue, planned to share her team’s recommendations during the closed-door weekly House Republican meeting. On her way in, carrying a binder of papers and pamphlets, Granger said a vote on her proposals “should happen right now.”
“Every day that we delay, thousands more come across the border,” she said.
Actually, no. That’s incorrect. “In the first 14 days of July, Customs and Border Protection officials apprehended an average of 150 unaccompanied children per day in the Rio Grande Valley – a figure that has plunged from about 355 per day in June,” we learned yesterday.
Presumably, if an elected member of Congress is tasked to lead a “working group” on the border crisis, he or she would not only have access to detailed information, but would also know that claims such as “every day … thousands more come across the border” aren’t true.
It’s important to have this policy debate, but it’ll be a more constructive debate if policymakers stick to the facts.
And the facts tell us that despite the recent crisis, illegal immigration is actually down sharply.
The Associated Press crunched the numbers and highlighted some details Congress might find interesting:
* In the last budget year, Border Patrol agents arrested about 420,000 people, most of them along the Mexican border. That followed a three-year trend of near record low numbers of apprehensions.
* Overall, the number of immigrants caught sneaking across the border remains at near historic low levels.
* The last time so few people were arrested at the country’s borders was 1973, when the Border Patrol recorded just fewer than 500,000 arrests.
* The number of people being arrested at the border remains dramatically lower than the all-time high of more than 1.6 million people in 2000.
I feel like this is going to join the list of beliefs that are widely held, but completely wrong. “Everybody knows” the deficit got bigger under Obama (it actually got smaller); “everybody knows” the Affordable Care Act is socialized medicine (it’s actually not); “everybody knows” we have to cut social-insurance programs like Social Security (we really don’t); and “everybody knows” a porous border had led to increased illegal border crossings (it actually hasn’t).
Reality matters.
As for the “working group’s” legislation, House Republicans must have a quick turnaround in mind – Congress leaves for a month long break at the end of next week, giving lawmakers very little time to get something done on this issue.