By Jon Greenberg
Separating children from their parents at the southwest border ignited a broad emotional outcry not often seen in the country’s long-running immigration debate. After weeks of defending the policy both as a deterrent and necessary to make the border legally meaningful, President Donald Trump and his administration reversed course.
The policy switch was itself a rarity for Trump, and it prompted the host of NBC’s Meet the Press Chuck Todd to ask the guests on his June 24 show, "Is this more of a refugee crisis than an immigration crisis?"
There is no definitive answer, but to frame the issue in terms of refugees instead of immigration redefines the problem.
Around 2012, a surge of teenagers without their parents began arriving at the southwest border. By 2013, for the first time, the unaccompanied minors from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras outnumbered those from Mexico. In 2014, they accounted for 75 percent of arrivals at the border.
U.S. authorities ended up collecting detailed information on 178,825 minors. Critically, that data included the towns and cities they had left behind.
Economist Michael Clemens at the Center for Global Development took that location data and ran it against the homicide data specific to those places. Violence, Clemens noted, isn’t spread evenly. It concentrates in hot spots.
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