Study shows consequences for illegal border crossing are effective

The White House’s get-tough policies on illegal border crossings from Mexico remains a talking point for Democrats heading into the midterms. But the better question for voters may be whether or not these policies are actually producing any results. If so, a new study from the Institute for Defense Analyses should be of interest. As reported at the Free Beacon, analysts have looked at specific instances of recidivist border crossings by illegal aliens in multiple locations where various tougher enforcement policies were put in place under the Obama administration and being enforced. The results are startling and speak to the effectiveness of these programs.

The researchers were interested in the effect of the U.S. Border Patrol’s Consequence Delivery System [CDS] program. Rolled out between 2008 and 2012, the CDS set up three different levels of sanctions for the people that USBP apprehends: precluding the detained person from acquiring a visa in the five years following detention, repatriating the person at a location far away from where they entered (to stymie efforts to reconnect with smugglers), and criminal prosecution.

The results are impressive. Before the implementation of the CDS, 22.6 percent of migrants were re-apprehended within three months of initial apprehension, and 28.1 percent were re-apprehended within 18 months. However, after CDS was fully implemented those rates fell to 14.4 and 17.5 percent respectively, an eight- and ten-percentage-point drop.

The effectiveness of the CDS is further supported by a survey of apprehended migrants, which found a stark decline in the number of people saying that they intended to try again once deposited back across the border. Eighty-eight percent intended to try to reenter in 2007; by 2013, that rate was 49 percent.

Before anyone gets up in arms over what a horrible person President Trump is and how his programs are inhumane, I’ll remind you of what I pointed out above. This study covers only enforcement programs put in place during the first term of Barack Obama. They involved our earliest efforts at curtailing catch and release, stiffer penalties, prosecution of illegal border jumpers and returning aliens to Mexico far from the spot on the border where they came across.

Those results appear too solid to write off as some sort of glitch in the data. 14.4% recidivism after three months is obviously still too high, but it’s a substantial improvement over 22.6%. It also represents one area where Barack Obama probably doesn’t get enough credit for his tenure in the White House. He certainly talked a good game about amnesty and tried to implement some constitutionally dubious programs to support it via executive order, but when it came down to the nuts and bolts of enforcing immigration law he was generally getting the job done.

Of course, you rarely heard any Democrats or their allies in the media saying a word about how “cruel and unfair” it all was, but Obama was deporting illegal aliens at a rate which frequently matched or exceeded what Donald Trump has managed. It’s just that talking about such a distasteful subject while a Democrat is in the White House is pretty much verboten under the major media outlets’ style guides.

What will be interesting to see is if a similar study can be conducted in the coming years. We need to know how effective Trump’s border policies are before deciding whether to keep them in place, expand them or scrap them. And if they ever get around to building any significant sections of the new wall, we’ll need metrics for that as well. I know that Hungary was able to almost entirely eliminate their illegal entry problem when they built a complete border barrier. Our situation is more challenging, but the proof will be in the pudding.