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Terry McLaughlin: Biden secures border

Terry McLaughlin | Columnist

Kudos to President Joe Biden, who on July 28 quietly approved a plan to complete the Southern border wall near Yuma, Arizona, filling in four major gaps in the wall that have allowed the Yuma area to be one of the busiest corridors for illegal immigration crossings in the past 18 months.

Up to this point, the president has been consistently critical of a wall along our Southern border, referring to the concept as “xenophobic” and “racist.” In an August 2020 interview with Lulu Garcia-Navarro, Biden adamantly stated, “There will not be another foot of wall constructed in my administration.” In a Miami Herald op-ed, he wrote that a wall “won’t stop the flow of illegal narcotics or human trafficking.”

Immediately after his inauguration, the Biden administration began terminating active building contracts, and in July 2021 the New York Post reported that the president was spending at least $3 million a day on contractors “to watch steel rust in the desert.” The Senate’s Subcommittee on Government Operations and Border Management found that at least 20% of the $10 billion received by the Pentagon for border wall construction had been spent on paying guards to protect already purchased materials at the abandoned construction sites.

In January through June of this year, border patrol agents have reported stopping illegal migrants more than 160,000 times in the Yuma sector alone. This figure is nearly quadruple the number of stops from last year, as the Yuma sector remains the busiest migrant sector in the state of Arizona. Only the Del Rio and Rio Grande Valley areas in south Texas experienced more illegal traffic along the entire U.S.-Mexico border. Has the demonstrable reality of the situation caused President Biden’s change of heart, at least as it concerns the Yuma sector?

Since the president’s inauguration, the United States has added more than 2 million immigrants to its population, almost 70% of which, or about 1.35 million, entered the country illegally. According to the Center for Immigration Studies, this surge is so overwhelming that it has pushed up the projected point at which the U.S. will have its largest-ever share of immigrants.

Steven Camarota, director of Research for the Center for Immigration Studies, indicates the organization uses the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey, conducted monthly, for its calculations. At the current rate of growth, 14.9% of residents will be immigrants sometime in 2023, topping the record set around the turn of the 20th century. This is half a decade earlier than predicted by the Census Bureau’s last calculation.

According to the Center for Immigration Studies, immigrants made up 14.8% of the U.S. population in 1890 and 14.7% in 1910, before beginning a decline. That number bottomed out at less than 5% in 1970, and as recently as 1990 comprised 7.9%. Mr. Camarota calculates that as of April 2022 it stood at 14.3%. He has determined that there were 47 million foreign-born residents in April, up 2 million since January 2021, stating that this is the fastest rate of growth ever found in the Current Population Survey, which has been tracking the foreign-born since 1994.

Despite Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas insisting, as recently as July 26 at the Aspen Security Forum, that “the border is secure,” we can only hope that President Biden’s decision to complete the wall already partially built in Yuma, Arizona, may be an indication that he and others in his administration are finally acknowledging the serious implications to our citizens and the immigrants themselves resulting from human trafficking, sex trafficking, drug smuggling, and massive amounts of deadly fentanyl crossing our border every day.

The administration’s quiet decision to secure the border wall in Yuma came only after Arizona’s Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly, facing a challenging reelection in three months, called on the president to do so. Regardless of Senator Kelly’s or the president’s motivation to complete this small portion of the border wall, it is a welcomed decision, although construction would still be months away. Senator Kelly stated he expects the first contract to be finalized in September, but no construction schedule has been set. Rather than funding through the Department of Defense, this project will be funded under the Department of Homeland Security’s 2021 budget.

Center for Immigration Studies data indicates that the foreign-born population has grown on average by 132,000 per month since President Biden took office, compared to 59,000 per month during Barack Obama’s first term, 76,000 per month in Obama’s second term, and 42,000 per month under Donald Trump before COVID-19 hit and the numbers plummeted.

Falling birth rates and rising death rates have meant that the native-born American population has not been growing as quickly as the Census Bureau had projected, which also helps explain Camarota’s prediction that the United States could set a new record for the ratio of foreign-born to native-born residents sometime next year. There are many implications to those numbers, which include immigrants in the country both legally and illegally, including the country’s ability to assimilate newcomers, and the upsides and downsides associated with those factors.

“Whatever you think are the costs or benefits of immigration, they scale with the level of immigration, and the level of immigration is way up,” Camarota said. “This is a policy choice. It’s not the weather. It’s not something we have no control over. The question is, is it a good choice? That’s up to the public to decide.”

Terry McLaughlin, who lives in Grass Valley, writes a twice monthly column for The Union. Write to her at terrymclaughlin2016@gmail.com


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