Politics

Obama Hides Steady Inflow Of Central American Migrants

Photo of Neil Munro
Neil Munro
White House Correspondent

The unprecedented multi-year inflow of 150,000 poor Central American migrants into the United States has dropped by only one-quarter during the hottest and most dangerous month of this year.

That’s contrary to the spin from the officials who have tried to claim the August drop was much larger and that the post-2009 inflow is perhaps coming to an end.

“The number of apprehensions in August are down from July, and they’re actually lower than they were August of last year,” President Barack Obama claimed during an August 28 press conference.

“Apprehensions in July were half of what they were in June [and] so we’re seeing a significant downward trend in terms of these unaccompanied children,” he said.

Obama however, focused the reporters’ attention on the smaller part of the inflow — the so-called “unaccompanied children” from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala.

He ignored the bigger and faster-growing part of the inflow — the groups of adults and children that are defined as “family units” by border officials.

Obama’s data was correct for the number of Central American “unaccompanied” youths who crossed without adults. Their numbers fell from 4,332 in July to 2,037 in August, according to monthly records that are released by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency.

But Obama ignored the number of Central Americans crossing in “family units.” Their numbers dropped only slightly, from 5,517 in July to 5,205 in August.

When combined, that’s a 26 percent drop from 9,849 in July to 7,242 in the hot and dangerous month of August.

The small-scale drop is a problem for the president, whose push for increased immigration has been stopped by growing public opposition. That opposition jumped once Americans saw the poor migrants being welcomed by Obama’s deputies, despite the existence of laws that allow immediate repatriation of the migrants.

For example, a July poll of 1,044 Americans by the Associated Press and GfK Public Affairs showed that public approval of Obama’s immigration policies has slipped from 22 percent in May, to only 18 percent strong approval in July. Strong disapproval climbed from 43 percent to 57 percent, marking a 18-point shift away from Obama since May, said the AP/GfK poll.

The public rejection has apparently prompted Obama to abandon a June promise to ethnic advocates to award millions of work permits to illegals already in the country. The ethnic advocates are angry and disappointed, but aren’t likely to rally their supporters against Obama in November.

If the Central American inflow continues, or rises once the hot weather is past, Obama’s amnesty plans will become even more unpopular. In prior years, the inflow fell in August and rose in September as the temperatures dropped.

More importantly, a continued inflow and growing public anger may even prompt GOP leaders to accept an emerging jobs-and-wages populist criticism of mass legal and illegal immigration.

Obama has the legal authority to stop the inflow overnight, said Jan Ting, a law professor at Temple University and a former immigration official in President George H. W. Bush’s Department of Justice. Instead, he choose to classify the migrant youths as trafficking victims, and he choose to let people in “family units” apply for asylum.

Obama “could use ‘Expedited Removal’ [rules] at the border if he chose, but he chose not to do so,” he said.

The migrants “are poor, but they’re not stupid,” so they’re continuing to cross the border, Ting told TheDC.

Since October 2013, 57,732 “family units” from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras have crossed the border to claim green cards via the immigration courts, according to CBP data. So far, the administration has deported only a few hundred of the “family unit” migrants.

Since October 2013, 50,303 “unaccompanied children” from the three Central American countries have crossed the border, says the CBO data. None has been sent home, because the administration has decided to set aside normal practices and instead let them apply for green cards via asylum applications.