Tom K. Wong at the Center for American Progress puts on his thinking cap and tries to resuscitate Team Obama's claim that the current crisis on our southern border is not due to Obama's slack deportation policy. I certainly appreciate the effort (and the links to some data) since I had a passing thought to attempt something similar myself.
However... as analysis, the CAP piece fall short. It succeeds in demonstrating the unremarkable conclusion that children are more inclined to flee dangerous countries than safe ones. But why the border influx now, as opposed to two, five, or seven years ago? Presumably something has changed; Team Obama claims it is the level of violence, and his critics insist it is US policy.
So, is it the level of violence in the key Central American countries that has changed? CAP does not address that point, but we get a hint from the UN figures on national homicide rates to which they link. This is from "Homicide counts and rates, time series 2000-2012":
My sophisticated eyeballometric assessment is that the homicide rate in El Salvador spiked in 2005 from about 40 (per 100,000) to about the mid-60's and was roughly steady there until falling back to the 40's in 2012 (if we can even believe these numbers...). That hardly suggests that children emigrating from El Salvador should have surged in 2013 or 2014. However, we can add this from a recent State Department travel warning:
Although Salvadoran police statistics show a decrease in annual homicides during 2012 and 2013, the homicide rate has been rising steadily since August 2013. From mid-February through April 2014, El Salvador has experienced an average of almost 10 people killed per day - the highest homicide rate since 2011.
Guatemala has been roughly stable in the mid 30's (per 100,000) to low 40's for years, which is also inconsistent with a recent surge in violence-motivated emigration.
Honduras, on the other hand, is spiraling from bad to worse: the homicide rate was in the 50's or 60's until 2008, after which it has spiked into the 90's as of 2012. However, this travel advisory from the State Department is interesting - although they note that the violence has been extreme for years, they also estimate a homicide rate of 79 in 2013, down a bit from the 2012 UN figure (which may or may not be from comparable sources).
Now an obvious caveat is that these numbers end in 2012, so maybe things really have gotten worse recently. Per the FTI Consulting report cited by CAP, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras are all violent with an unfavorable trend, which gives Team Obama a whiff of support. Whether their data is more current than the UN figures is not clear.
The Congressional Research Service had a helpful report outlining the legal issues and the scope of the immigration problem over time. This picture is worth a thousand words:
The surge from the three Central American countries clearly began in 2012 and has escalated dramatically. June 15 2012 was when Obama exerted his executive authority (and prosecutorial discretion) to implement his version of the DREAM Act.
Well. There is no reason that unaccompanied children can't both be fleeing violence and hoping to benefit from a new and relaxed attitude towards law enforcement in the US. But since even Team Obama seems to have abandoned the notion that this is all about Central American violence (leaving the Times editors to hold the fort alone) I am going to stick with the idea that if newly arrived illegals are running towards the Border Patrol and asking for their permiso, they have an idea that our enforcement is lax.
I should also note that the new emerging theme is to Blame Bush for an anti-trafficking law passed in late 2008 with overwhelming bipartisan support (and through a Dem-controlled Congress).