OVERSTATE

The foolishness of using a wall to stem US immigration, in one chart

Obsession
Borders
Obsession
Borders

The centerpiece of US president Donald Trump’s agenda is the construction of a wall along the US’s southern border with Mexico. The purported aim is to stem the flow of drugs and illegal immigration. While only time will tell if such a barrier will stymie narcotics smugglers, new data show that it could stop only a fraction of the flow of people who enter the US illegally.

A new report published by the Center for Migration Studies shows that not only are most undocumented immigrants entering the US legally but that more and more undocumented residents are doing so. Even if there was a wall, it would stop less than a third of migrants who remain in the US without authorization, the report says, because more people are simply overstaying their visas.

While these data undercut the administration’s rationale for building a wall, they support Trump’s wish to raise scrutiny of travelers at airports and their visa applications. Still, that could amount to looking for needles in haystacks given that 69.8 million travelers came to the US legally in 2013 according to government statistics and about 250,000 overstayed their visas, or just 0.36%, the report says.

The US government is tightly controlling data on who those visa abusers may be. I am currently suing the US Department of Commerce for free access to data about border crossers that could yield detailed insights into the demographics of travelers to the US who enter the US legally. A hearing has been set for May 16 in US District Court in Washington, DC.

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