The president seems to think he’s found a way out of the crisis. No, not the “crisis” at the border—if the word still has any universally accepted definition, there is no crisis at the border.
According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, 2018’s apprehensions along the southwestern border were the fifth lowest in nearly half a century. Last year’s records show modest growth from 2017, when apprehensions were lower than at any point since 1972. The administration notes an increase in the number of family units and unaccompanied minors crossing the border from Guatemala and Honduras. But the number of border-crossing families and children originating from Mexico and El Salvador has declined precipitously since 2016, and more juveniles crossed the border into the hands of patrol agents under George W. Bush. His administration coped with that influx despite having fewer available resources.
For Donald Trump, the crisis isn’t humanitarian but political. It is a crisis of confidence. He staked his reputation on constructing a wall along the southern border, and he’s not going to get one. Republicans in Congress had two years to appropriate the $25 billion Trump initially sought for a contiguous partition along the border, and they passed on it at every available opportunity. Trump transformed the 2018 midterm elections into a referendum on the notion that a humanitarian disaster was unfolding at the border and the wall was the only answer. Voters were not convinced.