A Comparison of Our Southern Border with Others in Crisis

It may seem an unfair comparison. Right now, there are an estimated 82.4 million refugees in the world. Our southern border issues are miniscule in comparison to the crises that exist elsewhere; but, our partisanship coupled with 24-7 news focused on primarily the U.S. makes it seem much worse than it is by way of comparison.

Let us take a look first to the south of us in the northern triangle of Central America, COVID has hit them hard. It pushed 687,000 people into leaving in FY 2021. Two hurricanes, Eta and Lota, devastated their economies in November 2020 especially in Honduras and Nicaragua. Frequent floods and earthquakes have continued since then.  Gang violence is rampant which caused a large murder rate. The region suffers from widespread corruption and governmental mismanagement. This is so bad, as an example, that El Salvador spends 70% of its budget on repaying loans. The rich pay little in the way of taxes. That leaves little for ameliorating the miserable conditions. Food insecurity is a real problem.

Miscommunications from the Biden administration led a significant number to believe they could get here, only to find out most were turned away. It is, of course, difficult to measure how much of an impact this miscommunication had given the other serious issues at work. It seems that those who focus on this factor have not considered the other factors causing a crisis on our southern border.

The Biden administration has continued Trump’s policy of Title 42 to attempt to control the crisis. The so-called war on drugs has increased the violence and corruption rather than interdicting the movement of drugs north. Trump’s policies made matters look better for our domestic population, but made the situation for the asylum seekers worse by forcing the asylum seekers to stay in Mexico by threatening tariffs on Mexico. Mexico is poorly equipped to take care of them. Trump’s increased regulations on the ability of asylum seekers to get to the U.S. has created months long backlogs in our immigration courts so the asylum seekers sit in not very nice camps in Mexico.

In fiscal year August 2020 to September 2021 about 1.7 migrants arrived at our border. In March 2021, there were 170,000 migrants that arrived at our border. The large majority were turned away.  Recidivism of 38% has added to the numbers of those turned away compared to a rate of 15% earlier.  So, the numbers of those who have arrived is significantly inflated by the rates of recidivism.

The number of refugees that have been admitted to the U.S. has fluctuated considerably over the years:


Partisanship, of course, has entered into all of this trying to blame Biden and/or Trump for the crisis.  In truth, the border situation was called a crisis in 2014 under President Obama. It has been an ongoing concern. This hints at the causes of the crisis are deeper and more significant than whatever each President has done.

Well, how does this compare with elsewhere?

First of all, my wife Suzanne and I have observed in our overseas travels that wherever there is a reasonably developed nation near to one that is not as well developed then there will be people who feel they have to move to that developed nation whether legally or not to have a better life.  That is certainly true for our southern border but obviously not for our northern one. As other examples, Finland had issues with Russians trying to get in. Slovakia had to deal with illegal Ukrainians. Israel definitely had illegal Sudanese.  It is a virtually universal phenomenon and Americans would be wiser to recognize that reality. We are NOT unique.

Even with our northern border, during the Vietnam war, Canada had illegal Americans coming in to escape the draft. In our own history, Mexico had a miserable time with trying to keep its border closed to Americans coming into the Mexican province of Texas with the result that a fair number of those at the Alamo were illegal immigrants. Since Mexico had abolished slavery, some of those Americans came with their “servants”. Jim Bowie had one at The Alamo.

Maybe, just maybe, if our partisans could recognize reality then the blaming would disappear. We WILL attract those who are desperate from our south. Period.

Secondly, our southern “crisis” does not come close to the situation in the top 7 crisis regions.

Syria is by far the worse with 6.8 million refugees and asylum seekers who because of the Syrian civil war remain in the Middle East. Turkey hosts nearly 3.7 million, the largest number of refugees hosted by any country in the world. Syrian refugees are also in Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq. Returnees face a daunting situation, including lack of infrastructure and services mixed with danger from explosive devices. About 6.7 million Syrians remain displaced inside the country, and nearly 11.1 million people in Syria need humanitarian assistance.

Second is Venezuela with 5.4 million refugees and asylum seekers, most of whom are in neighboring countries.

Third is Afghanistan with 2.8 million refugees and asylum seekers. Another 2.9 million are displaced within the country. At least 1.4 million of the refugees and asylum seekers are in Pakistan.

Fourth has to be southern Sudan with the worst crisis in Africa. There are 2.2 million refugees and asylum seekers who fled to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan, and Uganda.  There are another 1.6 million displaced within the country.  Around 83% of the refugees and asylum seekers are women and children. As mentioned above, some of those Sudanese have turned up in Israel—we have met with some of them. Just like within the U.S., Israel is politically divided on what to do with refugees.

Fifth would include the 1.1 million Rohingya Muslim Refugees and asylum seekers from Myanmar.  There are another 880,000 stateless Rohingya in the country. Close to 500,000 of the refugees and asylum seekers are in Bangladesh.

The Democratic Republic of Congo has about 1 million refugees and asylum seekers in neighboring countries. But, there are a staggering 5.2 million stuck in the DOC.  Most are suffering from malnutrition and diseases. The DOC is arguably one of the worst places to be in the world.

Somalia comes in 7th with 800,000 refugees and asylum seekers. Most Somali refugees have settled in Kenya, Ethiopia, or Yemen. Some have lived in massive refugee camps for years. There are 3 million displaced within the country.

There are other refugee crises as on the border between Poland and Belarus along with between Libya and Southern Europe that manage to outstrip our southern border situation.

To sum up, the situation on our southern border is a small part of a global crisis involving refugees.  Maybe, just maybe, we can put the partisan attacks aside; and, recognize that a global crisis just might need a coordinated global campaign. If you compare our southern border situation with those outlined above that should help the reader realize that our problems are small compared to others, but our partisan attacks make the situation look much worse than it is by way of comparison. Our southern border crisis has lasted for 7 years spanning three Presidencies; and is not likely to go away regardless of whoever is President. It WILL continue as long as lives are endangered within the Northern Triangle.

Arguably a solution would be to aid the Northern Triangle to have security and decent jobs. The Obama administration tried a pilot program to do that with measurable success. Unfortunately, the Trump administration put an end to that program thus helping expand our southern border crisis. Reverse that decision and a better situation will likely evolve. Still, no one should expect that such a solution would be quick and 100% effective.

As an example, look at our northern border. Is there anything like the crisis on the southern border? Nope. Why not? Two quite developed nations are living side by side so there is little to no need for folks to become refugees. Help the Northern Triangle to be a place where people would feel safe and be employed. Do that; and, the crisis will reduce by quite a bit.

Oh, in a by the way, why don’t our partisan battles discuss the itsy bitsy troubling fact that at least half of our undocumented folks got here legally.  Why? It is so expensive and time consuming to stay here legally that many have chosen to just stay.  They are from all over the world; and, they are working, paying taxes. 

Why don’t our partisans on both sides get so heated up over this? 

Maybe because it is such a good deal for the employers as they don’t have to worry about paying benefits and treating their employees well? Is anyone motivated to pass legislation to fix this? The employers outsource the hiring so they can say they don’t employ undocumented folks. Why not make that outsourcing practice a felony? This is a modest suggestion if we are really serious about dealing with the undocumented.  But, are we?  Its so much easier to blame whoever is President for the southern border crisis than it is to try to solve it.

See: https://www.americanimmigrationcouncil.org/research/why-don%E2%80%99t-they-just-get-line

Finally, are we really having to deal with open borders on our southern border? No. It is not the policy of the Biden administration to open our nation to whoever wants to come here without restrictions. https://www.cato.org/blog/bidens-border-policy-not-open-borders.

Jeez, this nasty partisanship has to stop.  THE U.S.A. DOES NOT HAVE AN OPEN SOUTHERN BORDER.

Sure, there are some on our southern border who manage to come in undocumented. That is NOT a new phenomenon. Aside from that, the reader should know that the U.S. has not had a policy of open borders since 1881, one year before the Chinese Exclusion Act.  

Is that going to change to an open borders policy?