Jonah Goldberg

All you need to do is look at the headlines out of Central America to see why tens of thousands of children are ending up at our border.

"In Columbia (sic), Rising Violence Breeds New Doubts" (N.Y. Times); "Guatemala Seen Slipping Into a Haven For Drugs" (LA Times); "Democracy Jeopardized as New Wave of Violence Sweeps Guatemala" (AP); "The Volcano That is Guatemala" (St. Louis Post-Dispatch); "A New Dark Age for Latin America?" (Miami Herald); "Murder Soars in El Salvador" (Washington Post); "Social Breakdown Turns Deadly in Guatemala" (Washington Post); "Roadside Rampage: Salvadoran Murders in Guatemala Raise Stake of Central American Drug-Addled Violence" (States News Service); "Drug Cartels Take Toll on Guatemala's Politics" (Atlanta Journal-Constitution).

No wonder we have so many refugees at our door.

Except there's one hitch: All of these headlines are very old. The first is from 1987, the last from 2007. And yet, over those two decades, we never saw anything like what we are seeing today.

Something else is going on. To be sure, this doesn't mean that the children at the border aren't fleeing horrible conditions, violence and poverty. But horrible conditions are not exactly new to Central America.

In other words the new variable isn't what's happening down there, it's what's happened up here.

President Obama has gotten a lot of grief from his base for being the "deporter-in-chief." But the basis for this charge is rooted in some statistical sleight of hand that he uses on the stump to show that he's tough on illegal immigration. President Obama likes to claim that he's deported a lot of people. But he hasn't. What he's done is count people caught and turned around at the border as "deportations." If previous administrations had counted thwarted illegal immigrants that way, Obama's number of "deportations" from the border would likely still be much lower than other recent presidents. Meanwhile, as the Los Angeles Times reported in April, "expulsions of people who are settled and working in the United States have fallen steadily since his first year in office, and are down more than 40 percent since 2009."

"If you are a run-of-the-mill immigrant here illegally, your odds of getting deported are close to zero -- it's just highly unlikely to happen," John Sandweg, the former acting head of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) told the Times.


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
TOWNHALL DAILY: Be the first to read Jonah Goldberg's column. Sign up today and receive Townhall.com daily lineup delivered each morning to your inbox.