Immigration, migrant caravans and the border wall - What's Your Point?

This week's panel: Jessica Colon - Republican strategist, Nyanza Moore - progressive commentator and Houston attorney, Steve Toth – former Republican State Representative,  Tony Diaz- Chicano educator and activist,  Tomaro Bell – Super Neighborhood leader, Bill King - businessman, columnist and former Kemah Mayor discuss the issue of immigration, the migrant caravan and Trump's threat to call up the military to close off the southern border


SAN DIEGO (AP) - Immigration has again become a hot political issue as President Donald Trump portrays the Mexico border in a state of crisis, underscored by dramatic images of a caravan of Central American migrants moving toward the U.S. and dozens of people climbing the border fence in Arizona.

The Border Patrol released video Friday of the fence incident near Yuma, Arizona, on the same day that the president traveled to the state for a rally where he stressed the need for a tougher border. The government said smugglers helped the migrants over the wall in four places and that the group was comprised of 108 people, including 52 children.

Trump's critics say the characterization of an out-of-control border is overblown and that Republicans are twisting the issue for political gain more than two weeks before the elections.

Here are some questions, answers and facts about what is happening at the border and with immigration:


Large groups of Central American families, particularly from Guatemala, have increasingly been making dangerous journeys through Mexico to the U.S. border. Many turn themselves in to U.S. border agents near the banks of the Rio Grande in Texas or in the deserts of Arizona to seek asylum.

Border Patrol agents arrested 16,658 family members in September, up 30 percent from August and up 80 percent from July, according to preliminary figures from Trump administration officials who spoke to AP on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to give out the numbers.

"If October is any indication, Fiscal Year 2019 is going to be a very busy year," Manuel Padilla Jr., chief of the Border Patrol's Rio Grande Valley sector, tweeted this week.

Agents made 396,579 arrests on the Mexican border during the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, up 31 percent from a 46-year-low in 2017, according to preliminary figures from the officials. Despite the year-over-year surge, the numbers are still low in historic terms, down 76 percent from more than 1.6 million in 2000.


The U.S. government is having trouble keeping up with the recent influx, forcing officials to find creative ways to handle the situation.

They have been dropping off immigrants at churches in Arizona, equipping them with an ankle-monitoring bracelet and giving them instructions to make court appearances at a later date. Catholic Community Services of Southern Arizona, coordinating closely with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, recently placed 340 people in motels in Yuma and Tucson until they could leave for other parts of the country.

Family detention space is limited to about 3,300 beds nationally and, under a court settlement, children can generally be held no more than 20 days, causing many families to be released.

Many of the immigrants are seeking asylum from violence in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador but the Trump administration has imposed tougher rules for these immigrants. Still, asylum seekers can wait years for their cases to be decided in immigration courts, which have a backlog of nearly 800,000 cases.

In addition, the U.S. continues to see large numbers of children coming to the border without parents. The number of these unaccompanied children held in a network of federally funded locations has soared, including a tent city in Tornillo, Texas, that is being expanded to 3,800 beds.


The White House found itself in a full-blown global crisis this year over a policy of separating children from their parents at the border. More than 2,500 children were separated from their parents after the administration adopted a "zero-tolerance" policy to criminally prosecute every adult who enters the country illegally. Hundreds of parents were deported without their children.

The administration scrapped the policy, but is considering new options to create deterrents for immigrant families.

The government is unable to hold children generally past 20 days under court-mandated guidelines on the care of children in government custody. But administration officials are working to amend the guidelines to allow for longer detentions.

Another possibility officials were considering is to give parents a choice between being detained months or years with their children while pursuing asylum or releasing their children to a government shelter while a relative or guardian seeks custody, administration officials said.

Immigrant advocates say that would leave parents with a horrible choice: face detention together or agree to separation.

The government is moving to create more detention space, but it's a lengthy process.


Trump is now touting family separation, even though it is highly debatable that the practice works.

"The one thing I will also say is that when a person thinks they will not be separated our border becomes overrun with people coming in." he told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

Trump has repeatedly lashed out at Central American leaders since a caravan of more than 2,000 migrants that left Honduras, threatening to cut off aid. He tweeted Thursday that he may call up the military to "CLOSE OUR SOUTHERN BORDER!"

The caravan has increased the presence of immigration as a campaign issue with the midterms drawing closer. But it's unclear how many of the immigrants will ever make it to the U.S. on a trek that could extend past the election.

An earlier caravan this year largely lost steam in Mexico and only a couple hundred of the migrants arrived in the U.S. to seek asylum.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) - Donald Trump fueled his 2016 campaign with fiery immigration rhetoric, visions of hordes flowing across the border to assault Americans and steal their jobs. Now, in the final weeks before midterm elections, he's back at it as he looks to stave off Democratic gains in Congress.

It's an approach that offers both risks and rewards. He could energize Democratic foes as well as the Republicans he wants to rouse to the polls.

But for the president, the potential gains clearly win out. In campaign stops and on Twitter in recent days, he has seized on a huge caravan of Central American migrants trying to reach the United States through Mexico as fresh evidence that his tough immigration prescriptions are needed.

He tweeted that the caravan was an "assault on our country at our Southern Border." Then, Thursday night in Montana, he told cheering supporters, "This will be an election of Kavanaugh, the caravan, law and order and common sense. ... Remember it's gonna be an election of the caravan."

His assertions got a visual boost Friday when some members of the caravan broke through a Guatemalan border barrier with Mexico. A few then got through to Mexican territory, but most were repelled by police with riot shields and pepper spray.

Trump signaled Friday he thought the strategy was working, telling reporters in Scottsdale, Arizona, that immigration was "a great issue for the Republicans."

On an aggressive campaign blitz, Trump has sought to cast the midterms as a referendum on his presidency, believing that he must insert himself into the national conversation in order to bring Republicans out to vote. Perhaps no issue was more identified with his last campaign than immigration, particularly his much-vaunted - and still-unfulfilled - promise to quickly build a U.S.-Mexico border wall. To Trump, his pledges are still rallying cries.

"I think it's a big contrast point. All the Democrats are refusing to build the wall. It's a good contrast," said former Trump campaign aide Barry Bennett, who said the caravan was "perfectly timed" for Trump's midterm pitch.

But some warn that as Trump seeks to pump up his base, he could energize opposition. Matt Barreto, co-founder of the research firm Latino Decisions, said an elevated immigration message could hurt Trump, too.

"I think you run the risk of angering minority voters across the board, Latino, black and Asian-Americans and also alienating and distancing from whites, including conservatives and moderates, now that they see what's happening with the family separations," said Barreto, a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Thursday night, the migrant caravan of at least 3,000, many waving Honduran flags and chanting slogans, arrived at the Guatemalan border with Mexico. On Friday, they broke down Guatemalan gates and streamed toward a bridge to Mexico. Most were repelled by Mexican police, but about 50 got through.

Mexico's dispatching of additional police to its southern border seemed to please Trump. On Thursday night, he retweeted a BuzzFeed journalist's tweet of a video clip showing the police deployment, adding his own comment: "Thank you Mexico, we look forward to working with you!"

Earlier in the day, Trump railed against the caravan on Twitter and declared it was "Democrats fault for weak laws!" He also threatened to deploy the military to the border if Mexico did not stop the migrants and appeared to threaten a revamped trade deal with Canada and Mexico.

Until days ago, immigration appeared to be unlikely to repeat its central role of 2016, as Trump heeded congressional Republican requests to avoid a government shutdown over funding for the border wall ahead of the midterms. And an internal GOP poll presented to the White House last month found that other issues - particularly opposing the "Medicare for All" policy of some Democrats - would better resonate with voters.

While Trump did focus for a time on some Democrats calling for the abolition of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, he largely discussed it as a warning against Democratic control of Washington. But the renewed embrace of the polarizing issue reflects a consensus view in both parties that control of Congress will be determined more by turning-out party loyalists than winning over centrist voters.

A vigorous immigration push will likely be well-received in many of the deep-red areas where Trump is campaigning, like his stop in Montana Thursday night. Republicans acknowledge it could play differently in other parts of the country - and might even harm GOP candidates in some selected districts - but they are wagering that as in 2016 it is still a net-win issue for the president's party.

Trump campaigns Friday night in Arizona, an increasingly competitive state where the message could have a mixed result. He won Arizona by 3.5 percentage points two years ago, compared with Republican Mitt Romney's 9-point margin in 2012.

Ahead of the midterms, polls continue to show that voters consider immigration among the most important issues, though generally falling behind the economy and health care.

However, Republican and Democratic voters have distinctly different views of immigration as a problem facing the country. A recent Pew Research Center survey found a majority of Democratic voters - 57 percent - think the treatment of immigrants in the country illegally is a very big problem in the U.S., compared with just 15 percent of Republican voters who say the same. By contrast, three-quarters of Republican voters call illegal immigration a very big problem, ranking the highest for Republicans among the long list on Pew's survey, while just 19 percent of Democratic voters say the same.

Recently, surveys from CNN and The Washington Post/ABC News found voters were slightly more likely to think the Democratic Party would do a better job handling immigration than the Republican Party.

7:55 p.m.

President Donald Trump has pounded Democrats at a rally in Mesa Arizona, saying they are to blame for America's immigration problems.

He says the new platform of the Democratic Party is "Radical socialism and open borders." Trump says the Democrats are opening "inviting millions of illegal aliens to break our laws, violate our borders and overwhelm our nation."

Trump also pledged to end what is called "chain migration" where one person immigrates and then brings their extended family into the country.

Trump's comments about "radical socialism" and "open borders" are not accurate reflections of Democratic positions. And his comments about migrants breaking the law and being "hardened criminals" do not provide a correct picture of the immigrant population.

Several studies from social scientists and the libertarian think tank Cato Institute have shown people here illegally are less likely to commit crime than U.S. citizens, and legal immigrants are even less likely to do so.

Friday, October 19

President Donald Trump says Central Americans trying to traverse Mexico and reach the U.S. border aren't "little angels" but "some hardened criminals."

On Friday while Trump was campaigning in Arizona, migrants burst through a Guatemalan border fence and started to stream into Mexican territory, rushing a phalanx of police with riot shields. About 50 pushed through before officers unleashed pepper spray and the rest retreated.

Asked what evidence he had that they were "hardened criminals," Trump told a reporter at a defense roundtable in Scottsdale: "Oh please. Please. Don't be a baby."

He told the reporter to look at Mexican soldiers lying on the ground as he discussed the migrants rushing across the border.

Trump then said he didn't want these "tough people" in the United States.

The president said: "I don't want them in our country. and neither does our country want them in our country."

President Donald Trump says Arizona Senate hopeful Martha McSally, who is a former Air Force colonel and combat fighter pilot, is "brilliant and brave" and has a "very, very strange opponent."

McSally, a Republican, is running against Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (SIN'-uh-muh). Trump didn't say why he thought Sinema was "strange."

Trump spoke during a roundtable Friday at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona with defense industry executives and local business leaders. He's in Arizona to help stump for McSally.

The two congresswomen are vying for the seat of Republican Sen. Jeff Flake, who is retiring. McSally was a Trump critic in 2016 and represents a Tucson district that voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton.

She's now embraced the president and hopes his visit to Arizona helps unites Republicans against Sinema.