Redefining the 'Border Crisis'

Central American immigrants turn themselves in after crossing the Rio Grande.

Although the crisis on the southern border of the U.S. has abated in recent months, federal officials warn that the number of unaccompanied minors crossing the border could rise again. If it does, the influx will almost surely occur along one stretch of the 1,954-mile border: the 320 miles of the Rio Grande Valley Sector.

This fact, illustrated in the chart above, has relevance not only for the border crisis but also for the larger immigration debate, which is sure to return after the election. That debate is only partly about the border, and even this border crisis was mostly about just one portion of that border.

If the migration of children surges again, Americans will no doubt argue about the reasons so many children leave Central America for the U.S. and what to do about it. There may even be a case for devoting more resources to the border. There should be no argument, however, about which part of the border should be the focus of a response.

--Editors: Alex Bruns, Francis Wilkinson.

To contact the editor on this story:
David Shipley at