U.S. Customs and Border Protection reports 2,475,669 “encounters” at the U.S.–Mexico border from October 2022 through September 2023 (federal Fiscal Year 2023). The Border Patrol may have “encountered” some people multiple times in repeated attempts to enter the country, but some people likely crossed the border illegally and unencountered. So let’s say 2.5 million people tried to enter our country illegally in one year.
The number of people coming to America illegally via Mexico and processed by the Border Patrol so far this December is over 225,000, a one-month record.
Some people seem to think the huge number of foreigners wanting to come to America is a problem (but not a big enough problem to shut down rail crossings, says Congressman Dusty Johnson—business über alles!… but let’s not complicate this essay). I prefer to think of it not only as an obvious answer to our chronic shortage of workers (every Border Patrol encounter should conclude with handing out a work visa) but also as an endorsement of the persistent greatness of the United States of America.
Consider: Governor Kristi Noem claims she has gotten thousands of people to apply to move to South Dakota (apply for what, a work visa?) with her bad-plumber ads. Governor Noem’s claims of the success of her ad campaign are unverifiable and in some cases demonstrably false. The claims come from a politician bucking for a bigger job who thus has every reason to inflate her figures (botox for statistics?). Whatever the actual number of people who have come to South Dakota, drawing those thousands or hundreds or dozens has required a comely Governor to dress up in lots of cute costumes and spend millions of dollars on TV ads targeting people mostly like her with false promises of freedom, economic opportunity, and less dependence on government.
Meanwhile, the same number of people who’ve clicked Noem’s website this year to say, yeah, maybe we’ll move to South Dakota is jumping the border from Mexico to the United States every day. President Joe Biden isn’t beaming ads into Mexico showing him adorably made up, butchering hogs at Smithfield, and saying, “Join me for Freedom™ on the kill floor!” None of our major media are making the case that the United States is a great place for immigrants; the conservative media happily amplify open hostility to newcomers, especially the brown ones, while the “liberal” media (i.e., the regular journalists whom the conservative media characterize as “liberal” to delegitimize real reporting and deter their conservative followers from listening to facts that challenge their conservative fantasies, but there I go again complicating the essay) report all the racism and bigotry and violence and other failures of the United States of America to live up to its principles.
And yet they come. 2.5 million people come. 2.5 million people look at the America they see on their TVs and Twitters and stories from Tio Mario who’s sending back good money from some factory dairy in South Dakota and want what they see in America so badly that they break the law to get here. They cross deserts and mountains and rivers. They scale walls and razor wire. They gamble their lives and freedom with dangerous smugglers and unsympathetic American border guards and cops to come live and work like dogs in a country where they don’t speak the language, where they will be exploited by lawbreaking employers, where they will live as invisibles in constant fear of deportation and separation from the loved ones who accompany them on this frightful journey.
South Dakota spends millions to advertise a comfy Whitopia, and a few fellow Americans take the bait. The United States of America in many ways does the opposite of inviting immigrants to come here; for the most part we just sit here being America, letting our example speak for itself, and 2.5 million people from Mexico and other father-flung parts of the globe vote with their feet, taking a profoundly perilous journey to seek a better life in America.
That record illegal immigration says pretty clearly that the United States of America must be one heck of great country. You’d think we Americans would be more grateful and welcome all these newcoming believers in the American dream.