Last week, I predicted that it was only a “matter of time” before an opportunistic lawmaker points to the tragic massacre of 72 Central and South American migrants on their way to the U.S. as yet another reason to “seal the border” and delay immigration reform. Unsurprisingly, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) stepped up to the plate on Fox News’ On the Record with Greta Van Susteren. However, McCain didn’t just use it as an opportunity to start fear-mongering about violence in Mexico hypothetically “spilling over,” he also called immigration and human rights activists “oblivious” for suggesting that “our border is more secure than ever”:
When they — this is the most cruel and brutal things that have happened in our hemisphere. And what I don’t get, Greta, is where are the immigration activists and the human rights activists and others that wouldn’t conclude that the way you stop this terrible situation — one of the ways is to secure our borders? Then this human trafficking dries up and people come to this country legally. But they don’t seem to get that. Where are the human rights activists with these terrible abuse taking place as we speak? [...]
And then [they] turn around and say, “Don’t worry, our border is more secure than ever,” is completely oblivious to what’s happening on the other side of the border and continues to happen in our own state. And the majority of the American people have it figured out. But frankly, apparently, some of these immigration groups, pro-immigration groups haven’t figured it out yet. Secure the border. Then we can address some of the other issues.
However, immigration activists aren’t just speculating when they suggest that the U.S. side of the border is safer than it’s been in years. The claim is actually based on hard data from the FBI and interviews with law enforcement officials. The FBI crime statistics show that as undocumented immigration has increased, crime in Arizona and other border states has gone down. Data from the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) additionally shows that the violent crime rate in Arizona has been declining since 2006 and in 2008 and is at the lowest level since 1973. Even property crime has plummeted in Arizona since 2002 and in 2008 and is at its lowest point since 1966. Clarence Dupnik, the border sheriff of Arizona’s Pima County, has stated, “I hear politicians on TV saying the border has gotten worse. Well, the fact of the matter is that the border has never been more secure.”
Finally, immigration and human rights activists are very aware that human smuggling is a “human rights crisis.” Long before the bodies of 72 murdered migrants were found, Amnesty International decried “the alarming levels of abuse faced by the tens of thousands of Central American irregular migrants that every year attempt to reach the US by crossing Mexico.” On the ground, non-profit groups such as Border Angels and the Border Action Network work to provide relief to migrants and the border towns they pass through.
Meanwhile, in Washington, DC, immigration groups continue to fight for immigration reform that would have the effect of shuttering the human smuggling business by providing economic migrants with more opportunities to legally enter the U.S. when there are jobs available for them. Meanwhile, as Wonk Room noted yesterday, the enforcement-only approach that McCain pushes exacerbates the problems and hardships migrants face. The harder it is to cross the border, the more profitable the human smuggling business becomes. And as profits rise, so does violence in Latin America.
McCain, however, insisted last night that he believes the border can be made airtight, citing Israel’s impeccable border security record — underestimating the persistent ingenuity of human smugglers and ignoring both the focus of Israeli border security efforts and the human rights violations associated with them.
Surely, McCain has access to all the information cited in this post — which means either he is the one who is oblivious or he is willfully deceiving the American public.
Reposted with permission from The Wonk Room.