Morning Joe Charts: A Wall Won’t Fix the (Humanitarian) Crisis at the Border

On MSNBC’s Morning Joe today, Steven Rattner presented charts showing that the only crisis at the border is humanitarian in nature – one that won’t be fixed by funding for Trump’s wall.

From the day he announced his presidential campaign, Donald Trump has been railing about Mexican immigration. Our southern border is too porous, he says, and presents a security threat. But the facts don’t bear him out (and he continues to misstate the actions he has taken to tighten it).

For starters, border apprehensions have been falling for two decades and the share of attempted crossings by Mexicans have been falling even faster. In fact, in 2014, apprehensions of Mexicans represented less than half of the total apprehensions, which was also true in 2016 and 2017 (the latest year for which data is available). All told, the number of Mexicans stopped at the border has dropped by 92% since its peak in 2000. What has been rising have been the number of migrants from Central American countries, particularly Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala.

But as this chart shows, the new flows from Central America are not individuals but primarily families and to a much lesser extent, unaccompanied children. Just six years ago, nearly 90% of the arrivals were individuals; last November, just 41% were individuals. The problem for the Border Patrol is that an agency designed to deter and deport adults traveling alone to find work now spends most of its time dealing with vulnerable families who are fleeing violence and poverty in Central America and are seeking asylum in the United States. So it is not gang members who are arriving at our border but families trying to escape from gangs and poverty in their home countries.

Since taking office, Mr. Trump has proclaimed on numerous occasions that his administration has begun constructed new border walls. But this isn’t true. Indeed, the Trump administration has yet to spend 40% of the $1.6 billion appropriated by Congress for border security in the past fiscal year.

Here are the facts: Our border with Mexico is 1,954 miles long. The president has said that he wants 1,000 miles of walls. Currently, there are 654 miles of a variety of barriers. Congress has approved 124 miles of new or replacement fencing but just 40 miles of replacement barriers have been built or started. Officials expect to break ground on an additional 61 miles of replacements in 2019 and in February, construction will begin on 14 miles of new barriers, which will be the first extension of the barrier system.