Throughout his presidential campaign, Donald Trump promised to implement a strong crackdown on illegal immigration and to build a border wall between the United States and Mexico. Today, almost a year after his inauguration, progress on the border wall has been limited but President Trump’s support for tough immigration measures continues.
In “The Wall: The real costs of a barrier between the U.S. and Mexico,” the Brookings Essay published in August of 2017, Foreign Policy Senior Fellow Vanda Felbab-Brown analyzed Trump’s claims about illegal immigration and the implications his policies could have on the U.S. economy, crime, and the environment. In advance of a Brookings event on Thursday, January 11, where Felbab-Brown will discuss her essay with Representative Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) and Maria Peña, correspondent for La Opinión-Impremedia, we wanted to highlight a few charts on immigration and border security from research by Felbab-Brown and other experts across the Institution.
CALIFORNIA, TEXAS, NEW YORK, AND FLORIDA HOST MORE UNDOCUMENTED IMMIGRANTS THAN ANY OTHER STATE
As Felbab-Brown illustrates through her profiles of undocumented immigrants across the U.S., immigration is a topic that affects more than just the Southwest corner of the country. The chart below, which uses 2014 data from the Pew Research Center, shows the distribution of more than 11.1 million undocumented residents living in the United States. California hosts an estimated 2.35 million such immigrants, the most of any state, followed by Texas, Florida, New York, New Jersey, and Illinois.
IMMIGRATION VIOLATIONS (NOT OTHER CRIMES) EXPLAIN THE MAJORITY OF DEPORTATIONS
As Elaine Kamarck, senior fellow in Governance Studies, noted in her research last fall, President Trump often invokes cases of violence committed by undocumented immigrants in order to legitimize immigration restrictions as a critical issue, although the data do not support his logic. The chart below shows that over a 14-year period only 7 percent of all immigrants removed from the United States were convicted of an aggregated felony.
TRUMP’S BORDER PLAN INCLUDES A MASSIVE INCREASE IN BORDER PATROL AGENTS
Along with building a larger border wall, President Trump has also advocated for a larger border patrol workforce. Kamarck points out that President Obama can be credited for a dramatic increase in the size of the border patrol workforce during his administration. President Trump’s plan would further raise the number of border personal by 15,000, but with a host of practical and logistical difficulties to achieve that goal.
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"You have to play the long game. It’s fine to add money, but when the commitment is volatile and your funding goes up and down constantly, you can end up creating more harm than good."
"We have been in Central America for a long time. It’s not just money that has made us effective in the region — there is a lot of hard-earned experience, trial and error, and institution building that is slowly reaping results. The worst thing that could happen now is to go back to zero."
"Cutting aid to Central American countries would be a mistake, since U.S. aid dollars fund programs that reduce violence, strengthen the justice system, and encourage investment that make them more attractive places for their citizens."