Immigration Right in DC Podcasts

The Schumer-Pelosi Border Disaster: Interview with Mark Krikorian

On RIGHT IN DC, my guest is Mark Krikorian, a nationally recognized expert on immigration issues who has served as Executive Director of the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) since 1995. He is the author of the books, “Open Immigration: Yea & Nay,” “The New Case Against Immigration, Both Legal and Illegal” and “How Obama is Transforming America Through Immigration.”

Mark’s knowledge and expertise in the immigration field are sought by Congress, where he frequently testifies. He has published articles in numerous outlets including The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The New York Times, and elsewhere. He is a contributor at National Review Online, and has appeared on all major cable and broadcast news networks. Mark holds a master’s degree from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and a bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University.

On today’s show, we discuss the border disaster, which is spinning completely out of control because of Congressional inaction by Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi to fix major legal loopholes that illegal immigrants exploit. Mark explains:

  • How these loopholes in the law (like allowing any illegal to be released if they bring a child) got started
  • Why the immigration issue got Donald Trump elected President
  • Why the main issue in the 2020 elections will be immigration and the border crisis
  • How Democrats, the Left and mainstream media who have Trump Derangement Syndrome have made themselves paralyzed to address and fix the crisis and how this will hurt them in the elections
  • The growing shift in tone by the New York Times and political figures who aren’t up for election who are acknowledging the real crisis at the border
  • The surprising reason for what is really driving illegal immigration to the US from all over the world
  • Data that shows how the cost of helping a Middle East refugee in the US is 12 times greater than helping more refugees in the place they first took refuge in the Middle East
  • Comparing the refugee policy after WW2 to the change in policy today which has corrupted the system and how these resettlement charities have benefited from government money
  • Why refugee settlement is actually an immoral and selfish act that doesn’t help the most amount of people
  • The solutions to fixing the illegal immigration crisis

MORE:

Center for Immigration Studies

Twitter: @MarkSKrikorian

Article Referenced: Refugee Resettlement Is Immoral

Books:

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RUSH TRANSCRIPT

Gayle Trotter
This is Gayle Trotter. Host of Right in DC. Today our guest is Mark Krikorian. Mark is the executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies. Mark, we are so glad that you are joining us today. Thank you for being here.

Mark Krikorian
Thanks for having me.

GT
Mark, you have on your Twitter bio that you are the “leading theorist of immigration restriction in America.” I think that’s probably tongue in cheek, right?

MK
I quoted that. That’s a quote from someone who very much does not agree with me on immigration, specifically, John Podhoretz, the editor of Commentary magazine who is basically an unlimited immigration guy. It’s a real quote, it’s just not from a friendly source, but it’s frankly more authentic maybe because it’s not a friendly source.

GT
That’s true. That’s very good. You’re an expert on immigration policy. You’ve been at this for a long time and I wanted to start out our discussion today talking about what is the hottest immigration story right now?

MK
The immigration story that overshadows everything else is the border disaster. Crisis isn’t even the word for it. The situation really is spinning out of control at the border for a bunch of reasons that we can talk about.

We’ve created incentives for people from Central America to just come up, especially if they bring kids with them, and we just let them go. We’ve created this enormous incentive to come and cross the border and say that you’re claiming political asylum and we let you go. Literally just let you go into the United States with a piece of paper. Why wouldn’t people come? In about a year and a half, I forget the exact number, but it was something like 2% of the entire population of Honduras has moved to the United States in just a year and a half. This is only going to get worse if Congress and the administration don’t start making some serious changes.

Last month, this is in April, the border patrol apprehended almost 100,000 people crossing between the ports of entry, in other words crossing illegally, and that’s up from the month before. It’s double what it was April of last year. It’s seven times higher than the number of border patrol arrests in April of two years before that. Things really are spinning out of control.

The infrastructure to patrol the border is basically falling apart and we’re going to have to do something pretty fast, if we have any intention of having a semblance of a border because it’s not just Central Americans. Let’s just say all 17 million people from Guatemala move to the United States. What about everywhere else in the world? The rules that we have now that say that if you have a kid with you, we just let you go into the country, don’t just apply to Central Americans. They just happen to be the ones who are closest and have an immediate incentive to leave.

Pakistan, Bangladesh, Kongo, they’re all full of people who have kids and those are all countries that are, frankly, not very appealing places and you’re going to start seeing, you’re already starting to see, a flow of people. They call them extracontinental illegal aliens. In other words, they’re not just non-Mexican because there has always been a term, OTM, other-than-Mexican, which is the border patrol term.

A majority of the people they catch are non-Mexican, almost all from Central America, but you’re starting to see people, as they say, extracontinental. In other words, from Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Europe. I actually have seen some Gypsies from Romania who somehow got a visa to Canada, crossed the Canadian border, which there is nothing there at all, just a guardrail, literally, and brought a kid with them and said they’re seeking asylum and they did it because they know they’d just be let go.

This is probably one of the most serious border crises we’ve faced and it’s building up into what Germany experienced or Europe experienced back in 2015 where there was that huge flow of million-plus people because the German prime minister, in effect, just invited them in and then thought better of it after a million people came in one year. We may end up with a million of these Central Americans, basically bogus asylum seekers coming in over the next 12 months. It’s possible.

This is something that not only is the most pressing migration issue, it’s entirely possible this is going to be the issue in next year’s election, especially if the economy stays good, we don’t get involved in any new wars, and all this stuff you see on Twitter about who uses what bathroom and who said what when he was 20 years old, that doesn’t really resonate, I think, with the public. This is going to resonate with the public.

GT
It’s interesting that you link this to the possible 2020 presidential contest. Isn’t this a repeat of the main issue of the 2016 presidential contest? There is a lot of speculation about how President Trump was able to go from never being elected to anything to being elected president on his, essentially, first try, but from the moment he came down the stairwell in Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue in New York City, he was talking about immigration. It seems like, as you’re saying, just from the numbers, it’s more of a problem now than it was in 2015 when he declared his candidacy. Can you explain that?

MK
Absolutely. This is why the President won. There is really no question. This is certainly why he won the primary because there are 16 other Republicans and shame on all of them for not really grappling with this issue effectively and Trump came in and basically just snapped the nomination out from under them.

There are some differences though. The two differences, the first one, is that the situation is much worse, as you suggest, much worse. It was pretty bad under Obama. In fact, the last year and a half or so under Obama, he kind of gave up even pretending to enforce immigration law. Because earlier in the Obama Administration, they actually did try to make an effort. Some of it was insincere, I won’t even say insincere, some of it was just basically deceptive because they cooked the books in some regards. The point is they were trying to look tough on immigration, show that they were serious so that when Congress came up with an immigration bill, the administration would be able to say, “Look, you can take us seriously on this. We’re not just letting everybody come in.”

However dishonest that may have been early in the Obama Administration, toward the end when they realized that they weren’t going to get anything through, the Gang of Eight Bill, if you remember that, spectacularly failed, didn’t pass the House. Once that happened, the Obama people just said, “We don’t need to keep pretending.” I won’t say they entirely stopped enforcing immigration law, but it was pretty bad.

We are now in a much worse situation because we had a huge drop in illegal immigration when the President was elected and inaugurated. It went down to levels that we hadn’t seen in more than a generation. The thing is, it wasn’t a lasting effect. It was kind of a wait and see, is Trump going to start machine gunning people on the border. Let’s hold off and see what it’s like.

When they found out that the President, in many respects, is hand caught, is prevented from responding to what, in a way, that’s necessary, you saw the numbers go back up and now they’ve exceeded anything that we saw during the Obama Administration. There were a few years during George W. Bush’s Administration that were higher, but even that was a very temporary thing.

My point is, the first difference is, the situation is much worse than it was in 2015, 2016. The second difference is, the President has been president now for two and a half years almost and a lot of people are saying, “Why is this getting worse when you’re President?”

GT
Right.

MK
The way it’s going to play out, I think, next year is going to depend on whether the President can show that he’s doing everything in his power to stop this and that the reason he hasn’t been as successful as he would want to be is because the loopholes and the law are such, that he’s constrained from doing what’s necessary.

One of the big loopholes is something called the Flores Settlement. There is no reason to get into the weeds about what it is, but there was a lawsuit during the Clinton Administration. Clinton people basically were friendly with the people bringing the lawsuit, so they settled. The settlement said no minor, no illegal immigrant under 18 years old, who is caught by the border patrol can be detained in immigration detention for more than 20 days.

What happened then under Obama was the judge who had okayed that lawsuit settlement said, “Yeah, and that also applies to minors who comes with their parents as well,” even thought that wasn’t part of the deal. What that means is: If you are an illegal immigrant now, you bring a kid with you, could be your kid, you could be lying about having rented the kid or maybe it’s some relative’s kid, all those things happen. If you bring a kid with you, you can’t be held, and he can’t be held, the kid, more than 20 days. Either you let the kid go and deliver him to relatives or a shelter or something else and keep the adult in custody until whatever case is resolved, but that’s separating families, we don’t do that anymore. You end up just letting the parents go too or the ostensible adult that he came with, the ostensible parents.

It’s essentially guaranteed. The smugglers know that and so the smugglers advertise in Central America. They literally have radio ads in Central America saying: Bring a kid with you and they’re just going to let you go into the United States and you’ll have to show up for a hearing, maybe. If you don’t, how is ICE, which is having enough trouble just finding criminals to deport, how is ICE going to find some ordinary schmo who doesn’t show up for this hearing? They don’t. They don’t even look for them. They can’t.

Until that loophole, and there are a few others, are fixed, the President can take some steps, but there is a limit to what he can do. My point on the election here, to wrap it up, is that if the President can persuade voters that he is doing everything he can and the responsibility for the continuation of this disaster is on the Democrats and Congress, than it will be a very powerful issue for him in next November.

If, on the other hand, he’s seen as not having produced the goods, not having delivered, then it could hurt him, depending on who the Democratic candidate is.

GT
When we’re talking about all of these very large numbers of illegal immigration, I think maybe people don’t understand or maybe I didn’t understand previously, but this is cumulative. We’re not talking about there is a million here, a million there. You talked about how many came in under President Obama illegally. How many came in under President Bush. It’s not just the case that, obviously, some people self-support, as they say, and go back to the country of origin, but many of them stay here. When you’re talking about the impact of this illegal immigration, it’s kind of, like, the deficit versus the debt. You have deficits every year, but this debt is this cumulative amount of indebtedness the United States have.

Is it kind of equivalent with illegal immigration that not only we have the monthly flow and the yearly tally, but it’s something that is a cumulative effect on the nation?

MK
Yeah. To continue your analogy to government spending, a million illegal aliens here, a million illegal aliens there, it starts to add up to real numbers. You’re right. First of all, there is some churn. There are always people who leave. It’s not like you can just add up the numbers straight and the other point to make also, and this was truer in the past, border patrol arrest numbers often count the same people over and over again if they don’t succeed, except that that’s less true now. Because in the old days, and I’m talking 10, 15 years ago. Fifteen years ago, numbers were comparable to what we’re going to see this year. They call it recidivism. In other words, the same illegal immigrant arrested multiple times in a year. That happened a lot.

Nowadays, these people coming with kids, they turn themselves in to the border patrol. They’re not arrested multiple times because they got caught, sent back, and kept trying. They’re literally flagging down the border patrol. In fact, there was one instance a few months ago, in a remote part of New Mexico, where smugglers knew there weren’t a lot of agents. There is no meaningful border fence. It’s just a short thing to keep trucks from driving over. They dropped, like, 200 illegal immigrants off by bus. They just bus them there. Said, “Here, hop over that thing and you’ll be in the United States.” The illegal immigrants were looking for border patrol agents and couldn’t find them and they ended up going to the border patrol office and knocking on the door to turn themselves in.

GT
Wow. That’s bold.

MK
That’s the whole point, that they want to turn themselves in. My point is, the basic point that you’re trying to make is correct. This adds up and if in the current year or let’s say in the next 12 months, we end up with one million of these Central Americans turning themselves in, some of them will actually win asylum. It’s a relatively small percent. I think there was a recent report, a bipartisan report on this issue that estimated something, like, 13 percent of those who utter the magic words that they’ve been coached to say about asylum, actually get asylum. They would stop being illegal aliens, but all the rest of them aren’t. You’re talking about maybe close to a million.

Let’s say 850,000 new illegal aliens this year. Let’s say what that is. Let’s just stipulate that as a number. Some people will leave, but that could be three-quarters of a million addition to the illegal population conservatively kind of guesstimating, again, that adds up, year after year. If we don’t fix this, next year you’re going to have the same thing. We’ve actually been relatively fortunate over the past few years that the illegal population hasn’t grown as much.

A lot of people are suspicious saying we’ve been saying 11 or 12 million illegal aliens for years now. It can’t be that. It must be double. There was study that said, no, there is really 22 million illegal immigrants. There aren’t. There is no way there can be that many because you would see it in the school enrollment in the birth statistics, death statistics, grocery shopping statistics, everything. There is no way we’re missing 10 million people. It could be 13 million people, I don’t know, but it’s not 22 million.

GT
It’s not double.

MK
It can’t be. Literally, just mathematically, can’t be. But the reason for that, originally, the reason was Mexico kind of ran out of extra people in rural Mexico. There just aren’t many working-age men left in rural Mexico. It’s emptied out because Mexico went through, in the 90s especially, and then in the first part of the 2000s, Mexico went through the same process that we did when farmers moved to the city. That China is seeing now. That Europe saw 150 years ago to 100 years ago. In other words, farmers moving to the city. This is when countries develop, that’s what happens.

Mexico doesn’t have that many people left in the countryside, they’ve all moved. A lot of them have moved here, into our cities. Obviously, many have moved to their own cities, and so what that meant was that even though Mexican illegal immigration did continue, I don’t want to oversell that, they’re still, even now, significant Mexican illegal immigration, but there is a lot less of it, and not insignificant number of people went home. There is a good amount of churn. The illegal population, during the Obama Administration kind of was sort of steady within a million or so.

What we’re seeing now, potentially, is reversal of that. So that now this Central American flow and in smaller part, Cubans, Haitians, people from Africa and India, and elsewhere, are basically undoing that process that we saw, where the illegal population was stable and we’re now getting significant numbers of new illegal immigrants coming here. Let’s say they have a hearing, an immigration hearing, two years from now, the kids are going to go to school. If a mom brings them, she might end up having another kid here in the U.S. who is a U.S. citizen. They’re going to get a job. They’ll probably join a church somewhere. Then how do you deport them?

This really is a problem that the opponents of the President have been saying no longer exist. That illegal immigration pretty much has stopped. The population isn’t increasing much. They’re all rooted here. They’ve been here for many years. Why don’t we just rip off the band aid, give them amnesty and get it over with? That wasn’t entirely true when they were saying it and it’s a whole lot less true now.

GT
When we’re talking about the contrast between illegal immigration from Mexico and these other countries, as you’ve mentioned, what’s driving it now? Is the situation worsening in these other countries, the Central American countries, and you mentioned also other countries like India, Pakistan, certain countries in Africa? Is the situation worse there that people are being motivated to make this journey or is it just that the change in the policy or the lack of effective enforcement of our immigration laws, is creating an opportunity and, as you said, sometimes these types of tricks or tips are being put on the radio advertisements in these countries.

What do you think it is that’s really kind of changing in these countries to motivate people to make this effort?

MK
People are not being pushed out. They are being pulled in by our own policies that incentivized them. This is not to say that Central America, where most of this is coming from, especially the three northern countries of Central America, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, it’s not to say these are great places, they’re crummy places, but the murder rate, for instance, is something they point to. Violence is out of control and the Democrats say, “These people are refugee. We just have to let them all in.” The fact is, the murder rate has been declining in those three countries. We did a blog post on this and just looked at the government statistics. This isn’t to say they don’t still have high crime rates; they do. Those societies are, frankly, in trouble. They’re very unsettled places, but in a sense they’re less unsettled than they were a few years ago, but the numbers have been going up.

Likewise, another explanation that the anti-borders people and the Democrats, but I repeat myself, have been making is that this is global warming. It’s almost like global warming is the answer for everything. My car isn’t getting good enough mileage; it must be global warming. My kid isn’t getting good grades; it must be global warming. What they’re saying here is that agricultural output is being affected by climate change and people are being driven off the land. We just did a post on this, I think it was last week, maybe the week before, looking at agricultural output. One of my staff who actually used to be a financial analyst in agricultural commodities, he knew where to look for the numbers, agricultural output has actually been going up pretty significantly among all of the top crops in those countries, including rice and beans. The actual things you need as staples. Whatever agricultural problems could well be the farmland is being consolidated. We didn’t look into that aspect of it, it could be, but climate change is not driving these people. It’s not like the Irish potato famine. That’s the story that the other side wants to say. People are starving, there is no food, so they have to go somewhere. BS. It’s just not happening.

Conditions in the country that would lead you to want to leave, clearly are a necessary precondition. Because if everything is coming up clover for you and the schools are good and nobody is bugging you and you’re making decent money and everybody is okay, then you’re not going to want to leave. Obviously, things have to be crummy to want to leave, whether it’s Central America or Cuba or India or anywhere else. That’s not a sufficient condition, as they say.

In other words, you have to have that, but that’s not enough to get people to go 2,000 miles from Central America to San Diego, let alone longer distances. There has to be, at our end, the incentive that you can actually get away with it because even if we are better at enforcing our laws and actually fix some of these loopholes, there are still people who are going to try, no question about it, but a mass phenomenon, like we’re seeing, essentially this is a mass migration in a short period of time of huge numbers of people from a relatively concentrated area, that’s only possible because they know they can get away with it. The costs of it, not just the dollar cost, but the likelihood of success, in that sense, or the likelihood of failing, is lower than it’s ever been, and so you’d almost be crazy not to try it. That’s what we’re seeing.

GT
You have been noting a shift of tone in some unlikely areas. Like the New York Times kind of put an editorial out there about giving President Trump and his administration money in order to work towards solving the border crisis, which I think six months ago they were denying there even was a crisis and splashing across their headlines, constantly, “No crisis. No crisis.” Of course, in the run up to the election and trying to, I would say take away, President Trump’s signature issue.

Why do you think there is a shift in tone on this?

MK
Yeah, it’s definitely interesting. You have a lot of Democrats, including the New York Times, have been saying all along, “There is no crisis and it’s Trump’s fault.” Well, which is it? But it’s gotten bad enough that, like you said, the New York Times actually ran an editorial saying, “Give Trump his border money,” or something like that because there is a supplemental funding request. In other words, an extra funding request separate from the main budget because they can’t wait that long that the administration has submitted and some of it is for, basically, humanitarian spending. In other words, increase the capacity for the border patrol to actually deal with these people. Because they’ve got these kids, they can’t just sort of set them loose. They’re minors. They’re legally prohibited from just saying, “Okay, here, just get out of here.” They’ve got to hand —

GT
Wander off.

MK
What’s that?

GT
Just wander off.

MK
Yeah, they can’t do that. They’re legally barred from that. Especially if they’re minors, they have to hold on to them until they figure out who they are and deliver them to some responsible authority. They don’t have places to put them. Literally, they have nowhere to put these people and they need some basic medical screening. We’re talking about Central America. This is a place that makes Mexico look like it’s Denmark. It’s much less developed than Mexico. You’ve got people who don’t have inoculations. It’s almost certain this spread of measles that we’re seeing across the country is at least partly driven by this border crisis.

My point is: The President is asking for extra money, not only to deal with those aspects, sort of the humanitarian aspects, but extra money for detention as well because you’ve got to hold onto people if you’re going to actually be able to send them home when they lose their asylum claims as they almost all will. If you don’t, you’re not going to be able to send them home and more people will come. This has gotten to such a level where, like you said, the New York Times, and I haven’t heard that many politicians though say that this is a problem.

What I’ve heard is former political figures, for instance Jay Johnson, who was Obama’s second Secretary of Homeland Security. He was there until the Obama Administration ended and I disagree with him on a lot of stuff, but he’s not a flake. He’s kind of a serious guy in some respects and he’s been willing to go on TV and say, “Look, this really is a crisis.” If I got a notification that a thousand illegal immigrants had been apprehended the day before, when I got my morning briefing, that was pretty serious. We’re getting more than a thousand a day now. He’s been willing to say that this is a real thing.

Claire McCaskill, believe it or not, the Senator who lost from Missouri, Democrat Senator, she was defeated by Josh Hawley and, frankly, Missouri is a lot better off, quite honestly. She was just on MSNBC last week disagreeing with all the talking heads over there about how “orange man bad” and it’s all “Satan is making it all up.” She was, like, “No, this is a real thing folks. We need to be serious about this.” There was also a Washington Post columnist, Glenn Kessler, a Lefty blogger, who wrote something to the same effect. That the Democrats need to say something about this because those people aren’t up for election and they, I think, see themselves as freer to say, “This is going to blow up in our face’s fellas if we don’t do something about it.”

The elected officials are kind of constrained because their own base is so deranged by Trump. I don’t think crazy is an overstatement.

GT
Adequate?

MK
Yeah, it’s not adequate. You probably know people like this.

GT
Oh, yes.

MK
I’ve lost at least one friend over this because they’re just unhinged. It’s really almost hard to believe. It’s like we didn’t go this crazy when Obama was elected. What is your problem?

GT
Right. Right.

MK
Yeah, sure, there was some people, he was born in Kenya and all that stuff, that’s kind of fringe stuff. This is the main stream of the Democratic party has gone insane because of trump and so they cannot come out and say that, hey, this really is a crisis and we need to give the President the resources and the tools he needs to deal with it because that means they would be normalizing the evil authoritarian blah-blah-blah in the White House.

They’re either going to overcome that, or they are going to really pay a price next year. I’m kind of keeping my fingers crossed that the crazies stay in charge for another year because they’re going to delegitimize themselves and we can only hope that there is going to be a presidential candidate that they select who is a complete whack-a-doodle on this issue. That might be asking for too much because even the Democrats might wise up if there is another year of this, but we can always hope.

GT
Joe Biden, himself, had some pretty strong comments in the past against illegal immigration, but I think you draw a really interesting contrast between the Democrats who are out of office and are freer to speak their minds about what they’re seeing. Particularly Jay Johnson with his experience in dealing with this particular issue and you contrast that with the 2020 candidates who, I think, want to make hay about this idea of family separation and the inhumanity of President Trump and the Republican party. I think if they were to give an inch on that, they believe that they would lose their best ammunition against him.

It’s interesting because when the press started going crazy about family separation the administration, unlike many other times when they’ve been criticized about policies, it seemed to catch them either unawares or I would say as kind of an outside observer, they had a reaction to the family separation narrative that was different than the reaction that they had to other criticisms on policies that they had. I think it’s interesting, too, because we’re seeing not only the 2020 presidential candidates, the New York Times and the contrast with former Democrats, everybody is taking this a little bit different. Last week Charlie Munger of Berkshire Hathaway and Warren Buffet fame was interviewed and had some things to say about the history of immigration and where we are now.

Could you give us your thoughts on that interview a little bit?

MK
Sure. Charlie Munger is kind of Warren Buffet’s pal going way back. He’s got money of his own, but he’s not in that league, at all, of Buffet, but he’s, you know, kind of a guy that they’ve worked together. They are simpatico. Frankly, both of them, including Warren Buffet were kind of left of center immigration restrictions. Buffet, he’s been a critic of high immigration, especially because he used to be, I don’t know if he still is, kind of a population control guy. That’s kind of where it came from. It’s not a complete surprise, but Munger, he said, “Look, you can’t just have unlimited immigration of people from different cultures. It’s just not going to work.” I think that got attention because it was Munger and because he publicly said it because both Buffett and Munger haven’t talked about immigration in many, many years since it became more of a controversial issue. They’ve sort of backed away from it.

What was surprising is not so much that Charlie Munger is worried about the situation at the border, but that he feels free to talk about it. Talk about it, publicly to reporters, in a way that Buffett and his circle have avoided doing for 25 years, even though I don’t think their views have changed. My guess is they kind of foresaw what you’re seeing now with shaming people and deplatforming them and all the rest of it and so they kind of just backed away from talking about the issue. My point is: Munger, talking publicly about this is another indication that people, at least on the center Left, are seeing that this is both a policy problem that we do have to deal with, but also a political problem that potentially can blow up in the face of the Democrats.

GT
Your organization did some research a while ago, maybe a couple years ago about the cost of helping people settle in the United States versus helping them, for example, in the Middle East. I think it was specifically related to ethnic minorities in the Middle East who were being injured, killed, ethnically cleansed by ISIS, and related to Syria as well. The research, which I found was so interesting, and should be so obvious to everyone, but the number I feel is very stark was that for every one person that you brought from the Middle East and set up in the United States, you could, instead, with that same amount of money, help 12 people to survive in the Middle East.

I think it’s a really important thing to reflect on when we have these very serious discussions about immigration, that it’s not obvious that the humanitarian answer is to have open borders and to allow anyone who is willing to make the journey to come and be part of the American experiment. That there is an idea that if you’re actually talking about humanitarian responses to the world’s problems, maybe that is not the right answer. The most humanitarian or moral answer for what we, as Americans can do, to help others, which America is an extremely generous nation. It has a very strong ethic of caring about other people, individuals, too, not just entire countries.

I was wondering if you could give us your thoughts about that idea in relation to what we’re talking about in illegal immigration today.

MK
Sure. Our report specifically was about refugee resettlement, that’s what we talked about. We looked at refugees from the Middle East who are brought here and then what it cost, what the United Nations, itself, says it cost to take care of refugees in the countries where they’ve taken their first shelter, say Syrians in Turkey or Lebanon or Jordan for instance. I actually got the idea from something I saw in the New York Times, believe it or not, where a Norwegian writer or commentator, I’m not even sure what he was, made this very point. He said it costs way more. He made up some number of 27 times more to bring a refugee to Norway. It’s possible because they’re a much more generous welfare state.

GT
Yes.

MK
I looked into it and there was no research backing that up. I think he just kind of made the number up. I said let’s see what it is for us. My research director, Steve Camarata, who is our number cruncher. He’s a master number cruncher at this stuff. He spent several months doing this because you’ve got to look at all, not just the federal costs of bringing refugees here, but the state and local welfare costs, too, because refugees are eligible for all welfare from the moment they get here on the same basis as citizen because they’re coming in under that status of refugees. The states pay most of that, but it’s still taxpayers paying it. Added it up, spent several months doing it, and the conclusion he came to is that it costs 12 times as much for the five-year cost of resettling a refugee in the U.S. is 12 times greater than taking care of somebody in a U.N. facility in the Middle East. It’s a lot better to come here than it is to stay there.

GT
Right. Yes.

MK
There is no question about that. But that’s not what this is about. Refugee resettlement, refugee protection is about helping the — should be about helping the largest number of people doing the most good, with whatever amount of money we decide through our elected representatives to spend on this. If you want to spend your own money, do whatever you want, but a refugee brought here, that’s a government process, a government program, and we are all on the hook for that. This is not your sending your $25 a month to help someone abroad. This is your tax money being used for food stamps and Medicare and public housing and what-have-you.

Unfortunately, the way our refugee system works now, and this is not the case after World War II, it was very different. We had a lot of refugees then from Europe. Then, if you were sponsoring a refugee family, say it was a college or a church, you sponsored one family and you were totally on the hook for all their costs. It was direct, personal charity.

GT
Right.

MK
Sacrificial charity. The women of the church would get together and set up the mom with a household and the dad would get a janitorial job or maybe one of the members of the church would find a job for him. The point is, it was a direct relationship. It would be, like, one family, maybe two. They would be embraced by whatever the community was, the church or the university or whoever it was and that worked, but that can’t work on a mass scale.

We’ve changed our system starting with the 1980 Refugee Act in the wake of Vietnam to mass refugee resettlement where sponsorship doesn’t really mean what you think it means. The state department actually pays these resettlement groups, Catholic Charities has one, Hebrew Immigrant Society, Lutheran Immigrant Refugee Services, Episcopal Migration Services, I think it’s called, and there is a few others. What they do is they pay them per head to bring refugees to the United States and they’re responsible for them for a few months. At which point, they sign them up for welfare and leave.

GT
Wow.

MK
And go get the next batch. The point is, the taxpayer is on the hook. This is not just individual charity. So the costs we’re talking about are not the costs incurred by people voluntarily helping others. This is tax money taken from you, at the point of a gun, and if we’re going to spend tax money, the people’s money that we take from them, for refugee protection, it should be doing the most good that you can with that money.

If you are resettling people here, the analogy I use is you have 12 hungry people and resettling here means you take one of them, almost at random, maybe they bribe their way because there is big bribery scandals now at the refugee centers abroad, where the U.N. takes money in order to put your name forward to be resettled. The point is, however it happens, we pick one and give them caviar where the other 11 don’t get anything. Instead of, and this is a metaphor, it’s not real caviar, instead of giving all 12 of those people rice and beans. The caviar, if you like caviar, is better than the rice and beans, but the point is we’re feeding 12 people instead of one. I’ve got to say refugee resettlement really is morally problematic.

I wrote a piece, “Refugee Resettlement Is Immoral” because I think it is. We do it for selfish reasons. We do it to make ourselves feel better even though it actually doesn’t help as many people as we could. The parable from scripture that I think of is the Pharisee and the tax collector in the temple where the Pharisee is there standing up in the middle of the temple, proudly, loudly saying, “Thank you, God, for making me such a great guy and I give charity to the temple and I’m not like these losers, including this loser tax collector there.” The tax collector won’t even look up and beats his chest and says, “Lord, forgive me, I’m a sinner.” Refugee resettlement is the Pharisee standing in the middle of the temple saying, “I’m go great. I’m doing all of this good.” Because you’re not doing good. Refugee resettlement is a selfish act on our part. It sounds unlikely because one person or one family certainly is benefitting from it. There is no question about that, but it is a selfish act because we’re doing it to make ourselves feel better so that we can actually see the person we’re helping instead of not seeing the 12 people we could have been helping so that we can feel better about ourselves and so that the people doing that can feel their contempt for those who don’t agree with it.

It really is, I’ve got to say, maybe despicable is too strong a word, but there is absolutely no justification for large-scale refugee resettlement. Only in those small number of cases, and the U.N. tracks how many cases there are, where there is an actual emergency need, an immediate need to remove somebody and nowhere else for them to go. There are cases like that, but we could take every case like that and still take fewer refugees than we’re taking now even with the lower refugee numbers that we’re seeing under President Trump.

GT
I definitely want to link in this post to your piece about that because I have long held that opinion and you just explained it so well and I haven’t read that piece that you wrote, but I’d really like to read it. I think the example you gave of the Pharisee and the tax collector is so on point because it is optics versus reality of how many people you’re helping.

We’ve kind of set up the problem here . I always want to end on solutions. The White House has an immigration plan. We can talk about the pros and cons. I just want to get your thoughts. How do we get out of this situation that we find ourselves in with illegal immigration?

MK
It’s not going to be easy. It’s not going to be able to happen overnight because when you have these kind of refugee emergencies or migration emergencies, if you nip them in the bud, you can, in fact, turn them around pretty quickly. The problem is that this has been building. This flow of supposedly unaccompanied minors who really are smuggled, their relatives pay for them to be smuggled, so they’re not unaccompanied. That’s just a legal dodge. Or these family units, they call them, in other words, at least one adult with at least one kid. That flow really started when Obama issued his DACA ruling, if you remember that, back in 2012.

GT
Yes.

MK
His illegal amnesty for kids of illegal aliens. That seems to have been the spark. Not because any of the new illegal immigrants would have qualified, but it clearly sent the message that kids of illegals could get amnesty and so illegal immigrants here started paying smugglers to bring their kids up and then, you know, say, “Hey, I’m unaccompanied and, of course, I have my parents phone number and e-mail address right here. Why don’t you call them?” Literally, that’s how it worked, and then family members, too. It started really in 2012.

It broke into the public consciousness in 2014. When, again, the same people now who are saying, boy, there really is a crisis, in 2014, started saying the same thing. Look, this is starting to get out of control. The Obama Administration clamped down a little bit and the numbers went down some. They got Mexico to cooperate some and it did reduce the numbers, but immediately in the next year it just went back up and then Trump was elected, numbers went down pretty significantly, but only for a short time and then they resumed their claim. My point here is that this has been building for six or seven years. Something like that, it develops a momentum of its own and it becomes harder to turn around the longer it’s been going on, but it can be done.

There are some things the administration can do that it hasn’t done yet that it might be able to get away with. That’s the problem. They’re stopped at every turn. There is talk now of setting up tent facilities, tent cities, basically, the army has the capacity for this, to set up tent cities to increase detention capacity. In other words, to keep people in place. Obviously, there is going to be a lawsuit as soon as that happens. In fact, there will be a blizzard, a campaign of lawsuits, to try to prevent it. The administration has to decide is that even worth doing because it’s not clear you’re going to be able to detain everybody.

For instance, last month, this was in April, there were more than 50,000 people who came in these, what they call family units, in other words adults with kids. If we increase detention capacity and hold all 50,000 of them, then what about the next month’s work? You know what I mean?

GT
Right.

MK
I’m not sure that we can actually detain our way out of this. The real problem, the core issue, is the loopholes in the law. I had mentioned earlier that provision that says any minor has to be released after 20 days.

GT
Yes.

MK
There is also another provision where minors, supposedly, unaccompanied minors, can’t be returned immediately if they don’t come from Mexico or Canada. In other words, countries that don’t border on the U.S., there is a whole extra layer of falderol you have to go through to return people. We’re getting Central Americans. There are legal loopholes like that that Congress has to fix in order for us to be able to get a handle on this.

There is just a limit to what the administration can do. What’s important, I think, here is that the President needs to explain to the public at every turn, that this border crisis brought on by Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi. In other words, this is the Schumer-Pelosi border disaster and the President needs to make that point every time he opens his mouth because things like this don’t penetrate because not everybody watches the news all the time. The point is you need to say it over and over again because otherwise a lot of voters are going to blame the President. They’re going to say, “You’re President, why aren’t you fixing this?”

GT
Right. Exactly.

MK
Like I said, the President himself is frustrated by this. This is what impelled the recent shakeup at Homeland Security where the secretary was basically fired. That’s fine. But I think the President is still working on kind of his tv show, The Apprentice model of management where if you don’t get the job done, you’re fired.

GT
Fire Congress.

MK
Yeah, exactly. Kirstjen Nielson who was Secretary of Homeland Security was fired, she really needed to be fired. She needed to be fired months ago. It’s not clear her replacement, who was the head of the border portion of DHS, basically has moved up and is acting secretary now. He may or may not keep that job, it’s not clear he’s going to do any better. I talked with him last week and he’s got plans for what he’s going to do, and it sounds good. Here is hoping. But there is a limit to what they can. The Administration is also pressuring Mexico with some initial modest success to do a better job of enforcing its own rules because these are people sneaking through Mexico. Not even sneaking, honestly. A lot of times they are helped —

GT
Right, brazen.

MK
— by Mexican authority. Yeah, it’s quite brazen. They are, in fact, deporting more Central Americans. That’s a good sign, but their main concern seems to be the optics of it. This is why they’ve been cracking down on these caravans. There was a big caravan, this was a month ago, maybe month and a half ago, that made it to the Texas border, and they detained all of them, but they didn’t send them back. They just parceled them out by bus in little bits along other parts of the border and then said, okay, well, whatever. In other words, they were worried about news coverage of a thousand people storming the border where there is cameras to record it. The President has made threats about shutting down the border crossings and that sort of thing, and they want to avoid that. Even pressure on Mexico is going to be a limited utility.

Again, Mexico is seeing its own internal incentives change because when all these people cross through Mexico and they kept going, it wasn’t that big of deal. They got to feel good about themselves. As long as they were out by sundown, what did the Mexicans care. A lot of them are now stuck in Mexico and Mexico doesn’t want any more Central Americans any more than we do.

In fact, the mayor of Tijuana, which is kind of the end of the line for a lot of people the mayor of Tijuana came out a few months ago because his own constituents were so angry at all of these people, the Central Americans, he came out at event with a red baseball cap that said, “Make Tijuana Great Again.” You can actually order them. Somebody ordered one for me. Just from CafePress or one of those places. The border mayors are really screaming about this. They can’t deal with it. They’ve got to deal with these people. They’ve got to put them up somehow. There is law enforcement issues, all that kind of stuff.

It’s not impossible that we could lessen this problem without cooperation from Congress, but there is not a lot of hope for that, honestly. Maybe the edge could be taken off, so it won’t be quite as bad and maybe it won’t go up one month to the next. It’ll go a flat line, maybe, but until Congress fixes these loopholes, this is going to remain a serious crisis and I just have no confidence that Nancy Pelosi is going to be willing to change it. I mean, I could see in the Senate, maybe, getting enough Democrats to go along with something the Republicans did to let something pass. If they were afraid enough of the political consequences, but in the House, they would have to initiate the legislation themselves, and it would be a bill that would pass with all Republican votes and a few Democrat votes. For instance, something that would fill these loopholes.

How is Nancy Pelosi going to be able to explain to the three stooges, to AOC, and the two others, what’s-her-name, Talib and Omar, and the rest of that crowd. How is she going to be able to get away with moving a Republican bill, basically, through the House on immigration? She would face a challenge, a leadership challenge, I think. I just don’t think this is going to be solvable until the Democrats get kicked in the behind really hard by voters. I just don’t see how the political dynamics can work any other way. I hope I’m wrong because I actually do want this fixed, even though it’s politically damaging for the Democrats because as a policy matter this is really bad. I don’t hold out a lot of hope that the Democrats are going to grow up and be willing to deal with this before they really get punched in the face by voters next November.

GT
I think there are two major takeaways from our informative and fun discussion, Mark. First is that President Trump needs to be out there every time he talks about this, pointing out to voters that this is the Schumer-Pelosi border crisis, right?

MK
Yeah.

GT
Secondly, we all need to look to Congress and specifically to the House Democrats to work towards solving this problem. It might be unlikely, but that’s where the solution to this problem is going to originate.

MK
Yeah, that’s the long and the short of it. I wish I had a better answer for you, but I think this is going to get worse before it gets better.

GT
Thank you, Mark, so much for joining us. Where can people find you online?

MK
Center for Immigration Studies, that I’m the director of is online, at www.cis.org. We have a blog and we put longer researches, always something, pretty much every day there is new stuff there. Then I’m on Twitter for people who like snark and sarcasm @markskrikorian. If you just sort of Google Mark Krikorian Twitter, you’ll probably find it and I usually Tweet probably more than I should, but if I wake up at 3:00 in the morning I’ll go through my Twitter feed and start tweeting. Like I said, if you have a taste for that sort of thing, Twitter is the place to go. For the research and substantive stuff, www.cis.org. If you’ve got a couple of nickels in your pocket, we also have a donate button there for anybody who is so inclined.

GT
Absolutely. Think of all the months that you’ve put into trying to find the research, particularly on that 12 for 1 refugee resettlement research. We complain that all the research is done by the Left and that there aren’t statistics out there from the Right, but you are in the trenches and your organization is doing this work for the benefit of all Americans so that they have the information and they can be informed voters and decide what kind of country we want.

We thank you so much for that, Mark, and we hope everyone will go to the donate button and support your organization’s excellent work.

MK
I appreciate it. Thank you for having me.

GT
This is Gayle Trotter. You can like me on Facebook. You can follow me on Twitter. You can follow me on Instagram. Please subscribe to my YouTube channel. You can subscribe to this podcast Right in DC on iTunes and you can leave a review. Most importantly, you can support this podcast on Patreon. We have great T-shirts as gifts for patrons, courtesy of Hard Hits Custom Apparel. We would like to thank Trio Caliente, a local D.C. group for music on the podcast. This is Right in DC.

About the author

Gayle Trotter

Gayle Trotter is an attorney, political analyst and columnist who regularly appears on TV, such as Fox News, contributes to The Hill, The Daily Caller, Townhall and other well-known political websites, and is a frequent guest on radio shows across the country providing an insider’s view of Washington, DC. Read More