U.S. Immigration is Big News in Central America

South of the U.S./Mexico border, the presidential race is being watched with keen interest. In Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, local newspapers are tracking two major headline stories: the coronavirus and President Trump versus his challenger, Joe Biden. La Prensa Libre, Guatemala’s leading daily, is reporting on U.S. immigration topics as part of a series titled “La Crisis Migratoria en Centroamérica.”

Because the two candidates’ immigration positions are well-known south of the border, with President Trump advocating for U.S. immigration law enforcement, and Biden touting amnesty along with other affirmative benefits like universal health care to unlawfully present migrants, thousands who live south of the border have decided that now is the time to go north. Getting into the U.S. interior before Biden takes office in 2021, assuming that’s the way the November election plays out, may represent their best chance of being included in the amnesty that the former Vice President has often vowed to grant. On his website, Biden promises to send Congress, “on day one,” legislation that will grant amnesty to 11 million unlawfully present aliens.

Polling which shows challenger Biden comfortably ahead of President Trump has already encouraged a new migrant wave headed toward the Southwest border. Department of Homeland Security September data shows that Customs and Border Protection agents apprehended nearly 55,000 migrants, the highest total in FY2020. Acting CBP commissioner Mark Morgan warned that, in addition to the amnesty lure, the Western Hemisphere’s worsening economic conditions and COVID-19 spikes add another pull factor. “Get ready,” Morgan alerted border state residents, “We’re already seeing the (migrant) numbers increase.”

Although far from perfect, President Trump’s achievements in transforming U.S. immigration policy into a system that benefits, not harms, Americans are significant. William H. Frey, a Brookings Institute analyst, found that some of the president’s immigration initiatives have contributed to slower U.S. population growth. Newly released Census Bureau projections showed that natural population increases – births minus deaths – declined to the lowest level “in decades.” Since the Census Bureau identified immigration and births to immigrants as the leading U.S. population growth driver, by extension then, fewer immigrant arrivals will mean slower U.S. population growth.

Title 42 is another variable in the Trump White House’s approach to enforcing immigration law, and has fallen mostly beneath the establishment media’s radar. Formally named 42 U.S. Code 42, the Public Health and Welfare regulation allows the federal government to immediately transport Mexican nationals caught attempting to cross into the U.S. unlawfully to the nearest international bridge where they will be walked back, or to use CBP’s word, expelled.

But Title 42 has resulted in an unintended consequence that helps explain the recent surge in border traffic. The returned migrants, knowing they’re unlikely to face consequences for re-entry, return to the U.S., often several times. But at a minimum, the Title 42 approach to deterring asylum seekers and others hoping to illegally enter the U.S. interior sends the message that immigration enforcement is a Trump administration priority, one that could vanish under a Biden presidency.

President Trump’s accomplishments have fulfilled, at least partially, average Americans’ immigration vision. Immigration should continue, but at levels that are consistent with helping working U.S. citizens. The historic average annual immigration intake, 250,000, has been replaced by an unsustainable million-plus lawful permanent residents per year which has become the new norm for more than two decades.

Biden’s views are in sync with the elite – Beltway lobbyists, academia, Silicon Valley and Congress’ donor-dependent class. But Main Street America wants less skilled and unskilled job competition from abroad. For many Americans, the days leading up to November 3 have been an endlessly contentious, undignified campaign. Before long, Americans will speak at the ballot box, and assuming a clear-cut winner emerges, the pre-election dust-up between the two candidates and their parties should settle down – at least for a few weeks.