IMMIGRATION SKEPTICS are fond of portraying the southwestern border as lawless and violent, a sort of Spanish-accented version of Pakistan’s tribal areas. In this fantasy dystopia, cascades of illegal immigrants cross the frontier, running roughshod over outmanned and outgunned U.S. Border Patrol agents.
It’s a colorful narrative, designed to scare Americans while deflecting reform of the nation’s broken immigration system. How can we discuss sweeping change, let alone amnesty for millions of undocumented immigrants, the purveyors of fear argue, while chaos reigns along the border?
But the lawless border portrayed by lawmakers such as Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas and Sen. John McCain of Arizona, border state Republicans, is a fairy tale. Illegal border crossings have nose-dived to their lowest levels in many years and are projected to plunge even further. Many segments of the southwest border are so quiet that border patrol agents spend their days surveying barren landscapes devoid of activity.