Ronald Reagan used to say, “facts are stubborn things.” They still are. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the debate over whether to secure the southern border, deter and reduce illegal immigration, or accommodate it.
Last week a video emerged and went viral – of a Tucson, Arizona city council meeting. The video is emblematic of what is happening nationally. Ironically, liberal media outlets celebrated the video, in which a female protestor with a “Respect Our Laws” sign was laughed at by a man in a green shirt, apparently unable to contain his disdain for her.
Entertaining perhaps, but what lies behind the clip’s popularity? The woman seemed genuinely concerned, the man oddly unhinged. In microcosm, they represent the national standoff – amplified in Border States – between those who respect US immigration laws and those who want to throw them off for “sanctuary cities,” welcoming illegal immigration.
This is where facts enter the picture. Tucson will decide whether to become a “sanctuary city” in November 2019. If the population so votes, Tucson becomes the first in Arizona. If they reject the move, Arizona remains cooperative with federal law enforcement.
The choice is stark, on the numbers. The top-ten “homeless” cities in America are also “sanctuary cities,” tax costs for public health and safety disproportionately high. But the real contrast is in projections. Cities upholding federal law tend to deter illegal immigration, while those that disrespect federal law – turn into magnets.
Consider the big picture. Most of the last year saw rising illegal immigration, caused by fear that the US border would close and federal court rulings against Trump. However, June and July 2019 saw the start of a reversal.
That reversal resulted from four factors. The first was President Trump’s ability to convince Mexico to redouble enforcement on its southern border, slowing the flow of Central American economic migrants north. The second was an assurance by Mexico to hold more Central American asylum-seekers on Mexico’s side of the border. Both resulted from Trump’s threat to impose a five percent tariff on Mexican goods entering the United States.
Third, the US Supreme Court ruled in favor of President Trump’s reprograming of $2.5 billion in Defense money to start wall construction. The fourth was aggressive new efforts by US law enforcement to deport illegal immigrants facing “final deportation” orders.
Against that backdrop, traffickers of illegal immigrants had to adjust. How? While total illegal entrants fell from 132,870 in May to 94,908 in June, then to 71,999 in July, they shied from cooperating states like Arizona and Texas, instead shifting to “sanctuary cities” in places like California.
Overall, President Trump’s commitment to reduce illegal immigration through deterrence, interdiction, international cooperation, and removal of those with “final deportation orders” has been working.
At the same time, pressure at the border has split the in-migrating illegal population. Fewer now seek “safe harbor” in non-sanctuary cities, more pour into cities promising not to cooperate with the federal government.
Thus, for example, between July 2018 and July 2019, the cities of El Paso and Laredo Texas saw a drop of 80 percent and 66 percent respectively, in unaccompanied alien children (UAC). Tucson saw a 56 percent drop in UAC.
At the same time, places that promised not to cooperate with federal law enforcement saw the exact reverse. San Diego – a proud sanctuary city and leader in homelessness, along with Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose and other California cities – saw a leap in illegal immigration. Over the same one-year period, San Diego saw a 35 percent increase in unaccompanied alien children.
So, as Tucson considers which side of the law, line and liminal process they are on, they might consider hard facts: Cities that uphold federal immigration law are seeing a drop in illegal immigration and associated costs. Those opting for sanctuary city status are experiencing the reverse – increased inflows and costs.
One other set of numbers is noteworthy. As debate swirls over crime, certain numbers stand out. For example, in California – the nation’s only “sanctuary state” – human trafficking is inordinately high.
A recent account noted: “With California leading the way, human trafficking, especially in the sex and labor trades, jumped again last year (2017) and has surged 842 percent since the creation of a federally-supported hotline for victims (in 2008).” California reports 15 percent of all sex trafficking calls.
And San Diego is an example of how bad things can get. Analysis: “The numbers are staggering,” since “there are between 8,830 and 11,773 victims or survivors of human trafficking in San Diego County,” “55 percent … either homeless or have been homeless,” and San Diego “has consistently ranked in the top 10 cities for human trafficking.“
In the end, facts speak louder than an emblematic exchange of emotions in a Tucson city council meeting. The vilified protestor – a young woman – was saying, in her MAGA hat, she wanted those around her to “respect the law,” not an unreasonable request. She was met by ridiculing laughter from a self-assured man, who later reveled in his new-found popularity.
The issue is bigger than this. It is about what happens when emotion replaces fact, when numbers are met with laughter, when sober evaluation of incentives and disincentives gets sidelined, when rule of law is glibly abandoned for political advantage.
These are the times in which we find ourselves – when logic, history, reason and law are seemingly subservient to lethargy, laughter and dismissive voices. But Ronald Reagan was right: Facts are stubborn things. They were in his time. They still are.