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Monday, March 25 , 2019, 2:07 pm | Fair 62º

 
 
 
 

Diane Dimond: Crisis or Not, Immigration Is a Problem

So, what is the reality of immigration into the United States? Is it the "humanitarian crisis at the border" some speak about, or is it, as others maintain, nothing much to worry about?

Both statements are correct — to a point. Border apprehensions had been declining for years. But it used to be the majority of immigrants were solo males looking for work to send money home. Today, it is mostly families with children attempting to enter the United States, and we are simply not equipped to handle them all.

Americans hardly know what to believe anymore. We live in a facts-be-damned era when assertions are made and then reported by the news media, often with no perspective or assurance that the comments are true.

Take the august New York Times, for example. After President Trump's February State of the Union speech, the Times declared the president's description of the current immigration situation as an "urgent national crisis" false. The Washington Post warned readers not to be fooled by the "make-believe crisis." CNN said flatly, "There is no national emergency."

Less than a month later, the Times ran front-page articles on the explosion of sex crimes against women migrants and a piece with the breathless headline, "Border at 'Breaking Point' as More Than 76,000 Migrants Cross in a Month." No explanation for the Times' flip-flopped attitude. No retraction of its report that there is no crisis.

The reality is that clear thinkers cannot just look at what the immigration system is right now. We must look at the issue with a wider lens and realize that the cumulative effect of our lackadaisical immigration policies during the past few decades has brought us to this reckoning point.

The snowballing economic strain that immigration (both legal and illegal) has put on our welfare system, public schools, health care programs and hospitals has drained billions of dollars that could have been spent on needy U.S. citizens.

There are those who argue that the economics will all level out over time because the children of immigrants will mature to become contributing, tax-paying members of society. Maybe. But there is no guarantee that their collective contribution will ever amount to what U.S. taxpayers have already shelled out.

Let's just take a look at one fascinating slice of the federal budget, that of the federal prison system, to gauge the impact of immigration. David Olen Cross is a crime researcher who writes on immigration and crimes committed by foreign nationals. Cross regularly compiles both state and national figures that should make every rational policymaker grow pale.

Using the February 2019 U.S. Bureau of Prisons citizenship statistics, Cross discovered that 19.3 percent of the federal prison population holds a foreign passport. The highest percentage of foreign-born prisoners are from Mexico (12.1 percent), Columbia (0.9 percent), Dominican Republic (0.8 percent) and Cuba (0.7 percent), and 4.9 percent are from other/unknown countries.

What crimes did these 179,917 convicts commit? Well, 76,789 of them are serving time on drug offenses. Convictions for weapons, explosives and/or arson account for more than 30,652 prisoners, while 16,539 were found guilty of sex crimes, and 5,435 committed a homicide, aggravated assault or a kidnapping.

Imagine if our federal prison system were to not have to care for those tens of thousands of convicts. Uncle Sam's 2018 fiscal year prison budget of nearly $7.2 billion could be lowered by nearly 20 percent. Yep, the Bureau of Prisons could have saved an estimated $1.44 billion in just one fiscal year. If you don't think that sounds impressive, ask yourself how happy you'd be if you were to suddenly have 20 percent more money in your savings account. Imagine what other sectors could save if illegal immigration were brought under control.

Look, don't call it a crisis. Don't call it an emergency. But don't fail to call it a real problem for this country.

Back in 2009, when Barack Obama was president, Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer told a group at Georgetown University it was a problem. "Illegal immigration is wrong," Schumer said, and he cautioned the group, "When we use phrases like 'undocumented workers,' we convey a message to the American people that their government is not serious about combating illegal immigration."

So, where is leader Schumer today? Standing next to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, railing about this president's plan for a wall yet passing no legislation of their own that would begin to tackle the nation's immigration problems. In what world is doing nothing OK?

You would think congressional leaders would want to do everything possible to keep the population safe from outside criminals. That they cannot get it together to compromise on immigration is shameful. Not only are American taxpayers and crime victims hurting; so are those desperate migrant families who take the perilous trip north only to find themselves trapped at the border are.

Note to Washington: Do your job. Pass meaningful immigration reform. Now.

Diane Dimond is the author of Thinking Outside the Crime and Justice Box. Contact her at [email protected], follow her on Twitter: @DiDimond, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

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