From [HERE] The mayor of this Texas border city has been dealing with a crisis.
This week, he declared a state of emergency. Drones filled the skies and emergency vehicles raced down the streets. But none of it had anything to do with illegal immigration.
It had to do with the weather.
A severe thunderstorm caused widespread flooding throughout the Rio Grande Valley in recent days. That other crisis — the one President Trump says has been unfolding on the border because of illegal immigration — is largely a fiction, the mayor, Tony Martinez, and other Brownsville residents and leaders said.
“There is not a crisis in the city of Brownsville with regards to safety and security,” said Mr. Martinez, who has lived in Brownsville since the late 1970s. “There’s no gunfire. Most of the people that are migrating are from Central America. It’s not like they’re coming over here to try to take anybody’s job. They’re trying to just save their own lives. We’re doing fine, quite frankly.”
Mr. Martinez is a Democrat in a mainly conservative state, and many Republicans in Texas, like Mr. Trump, have raised an alarm over the numbers of migrants still flowing into Texas. But there is evidence, in federal data and on the ground in places like Brownsville that the immigration crisis Mr. Trump has cited over the past week to justify the separation of families is actually no crisis at all.
There has been no drastic overall increase in the number of immigrants crossing the border, and while the rugged frontier along the Rio Grande Valley has long been a transit point for drugs and the trouble that goes along with them, the violence of Mexico’s drug wars seldom spills into the United States.
In remarks and news releases this past week, Mr. Trump has repeatedly sounded alarm bells on the “crisis” and “mess” of illegal immigration at the southwestern border. At an event Friday with families whose loved ones had been killed by undocumented immigrants, Mr. Trump suggested that immigrants commit more crimes than citizens do. And at a campaign rally on Wednesday, he said that “illegal immigration costs our country hundreds of billions of dollars.”
“We have to do something about immigration in this country,” Mr. Trump said at a cabinet meeting on Thursday. “For 50 years, and long before that, it was a disaster. But over the last 20, 25 years, it’s gotten worse.”
The numbers suggest that this is not true.
Unauthorized crossings along the border with Mexico have sharply declined over the past two decades, according to government data. From the 1980s to the mid-2000s, the government reported annually apprehending around 1 million to 1.6 million people who tried to cross the southwestern border illegally. That number has been halved in recent years. By month, border apprehensions averaged more than 81,588 under President George W. Bush, declined to more than 34,647 under President Barack Obama and now stand at 24,241 under Mr. Trump.
The president is correct in citing a spike in illegal border crossings that occurred in March: The 37,393 individuals apprehended was a 203 percent increase over the same period in March 2017, though the number was lower than in 2013 and 2014.
Research shows that incarceration rates of both legal and undocumented immigrants across the country are lower than those of native-born Americans, and that the net economic impact of immigration is positive. Mr. Trump’s reference to illegal immigration costing “hundreds of billions of dollars” likely came from a heavily flawed study from an anti-immigration group that pinned the cost at $116 billion annually. Adjusting for the flaws, the impact would more accurately be stated as $3.3 billion to $15.6 billion, according to the libertarian Cato Institute.
As the numbers show, there is a stark disconnect between Mr. Trump’s border rhetoric and the reality of life in border cities like Brownsville.
While statistics show that native-born Americans commit crimes at higher rates than immigrants, Mr. Trump has long pushed a narrative that suggests otherwise.
“Americans have long believed that immigrants are more likely than natives to commit crimes and that rising immigration leads to rising crime,” the National Academy of Sciences wrote in a 2015 study. “This belief is remarkably resilient to the contrary evidence that immigrants are in fact much less likely than natives to commit crimes.
According to a 2017 report from the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, 1.53 percent of native-born Americans are incarcerated, compared with 0.85 percent of undocumented immigrants and 0.47 percent of legal immigrants.
The Marshall Project, in a 2018 analysis of data from 200 metropolitan areas over the last few decades, found that crime has fallen despite the immigrant population increasing. Other studies have found that the immigration has little effect on crime.
Inviting the families to speak to the public was another strategy for the president, who has railed against undocumented immigrants since his days on the campaign trail and whose rhetoric about them has intensified in recent days. He has branded many illegal immigrants as “murderers and thieves” who want to “infest our country.”
For Mr. Trump, the stories fit perfectly into his dark message about the threats coming over the border, which whipped up his supporters at rallies and helped motivate his voters at the polls. Stories from the victims’ families put a human face on Mr. Trump’s demand for a sprawling wall along the southern border. [MORE]
In a way, this is old news: Washington rhetoric has been colliding with realities on the ground for decades, regardless of the topic or the administration. But the president’s repeated descriptions of a chaotic, crime-ridden border have frustrated millions of Americans who live and work on the Southwest frontier.
“There’s this misconception that we’re in this lawless land, and it’s the wild, wild frontier, and it’s not,” said the Brownsville police chief, Orlando C. Rodriguez. “We see actually a downward trend in crime in Brownsville over the past few years, and the numbers are just getting better every year.”
There were a total of six homicides in Brownsville in 2017, up from four in 2016. Aggravated assault cases were at 259 in 2017, down from 264 in 2016 and from 292 in 2015. Robbery was at 133 in 2017, up from 130 in 2016 but down from 154 in 2015. Asked whether the city’s population of undocumented immigrants was committing widespread crime, Chief Rodriguez said they were most definitely not.
“To say that illegals are running around in Brownsville causing problems, we just don’t see it,” the chief said.
In Nogales, Ariz., which borders and shares its name with a Mexican city, the number of violent crimes plummeted by more than 70 percent from 1997 to 2016. Similar trends can be seen in San Luis, Somerton and Yuma. The overall crime rate in Arizona has also dropped by more than a third from 1993 to 2016. During that same time, the state’s undocumented-immigrant population more than doubled, according to the Pew Research Center.
President Trump has often cited crimes committed by the transnational gang MS-13 in cities as far from the southern border as New York. Gang members have indeed been responsible for a wave of violence, though some of them were born in the United States, and much of their mayhem is targeted at immigrant communities.
It is also true that Brownsville and other Southwest cities have their share of crime, poverty and social ills as a result of their proximity to the border.
The drug trade fuels public corruption. Stash houses in residential neighborhoods hide smuggled people and drugs. Police chases of smugglers’ vehicles often end in tragedy — in deadly collisions, fatal shootings and rollovers.
But such incidents often happen on or near “the line,” as many people refer to it — the physical border along the Rio Grande — or around the Border Patrol’s traffic checkpoints farther north. Out in the towns and neighborhoods, in the malls and the movie theaters, the border is at times a world away. [MORE]