Those in the reality-based discussion about immigration have pointed out for years that the “crisis” of illegal immigration isn’t a crisis at all and, in fact, that the outflow of people along the southern border has topped the inflow. Pew Research has released a new study confirming exactly this — and demonstrating that the progress in thwarting illegal entries was made under the George W. Bush and Obama administrations (which did not resort to child separations):

The number of unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. fell to its lowest level in more than a decade, according to new Pew Research Center estimates based on 2016 government data. The decline is due almost entirely to a sharp decrease in the number of Mexicans entering the country without authorization. . . . The total is the lowest since 2004. It is tied to a decline of 1.5 million people in the number of Mexican unauthorized immigrants from 2007 to 2016.

Illegal immigration from Central America remains an issue (“Central America was the only birth region accounting for more U.S. unauthorized immigrants in 2016 than in 2007”), but the total number of unauthorized immigrants living in the United States hasn’t been this low in 14 years.

The biggest deporter was — ready? — President Barack Obama. (“Deportations rose during the George W. Bush and Obama administrations — from 211,000 in 2003 to a record 433,000 in 2013, according to Department of Homeland Security statistics.”)

The composition of the population of illegal immigrants is increasingly made up of longtime residents (i.e., people connected to the workforce and in their communities) and those with children who are American-born U.S. citizens. “Today’s unauthorized immigrant population includes a smaller share of recent arrivals, especially from Mexico, than a decade earlier,” Pew reports. “Increasingly unauthorized immigrants are likely to be long-term U.S. residents: Two-thirds of adult unauthorized immigrants have lived in the country for more than 10 years. . . . As their typical span of U.S. residence has grown, a rising share of unauthorized immigrant adults — 43% in 2016 compared with 32% in 2007 — live in households with U.S.-born children.”

Columnist Eugene Robinson says President Trump's frenzied tweets about a "caravan" of migrants are really about his fear of losing his base. (Gillian Brockell/The Washington Post)

Anti-immigrant zealots have maintained that with enforcement the numbers of illegal immigrants could be greatly reduced, leaving just those who really are part of American society and the American workforce. Well, they’re right — and we’re at that point now! Of course, instead of recognizing that we’ve made huge progress in controlling illegal immigration and moving on to consider how to legalize those with substantial ties to the United States, the anti-immigrant crowd paints a dire picture, invents a crime wave (for which they hold immigrants responsible) and wants to cut the number of legal immigrants and/or repeal birthright citizenship.

This is precisely the kind of issue of which the Trump GOP cares not one wit about the facts. Tell them (truthfully) that immigrants commit fewer crimes than native-born citizens, are catching up with native-born Americans on homeownership rates and are overrepresented among high-tech entrepreneurs, and they’ll scoff, dig up some worker who says an illegal took his job (more likely automation eliminated his position) and falsely insist that immigrants are a drag on the economy and responsible for high crime in Chicago because it is a “sanctuary city.”

It’s not possible to have a reasoned debate unless immigration opponents are ready to admit to facts. Like climate-change deniers, the anti-immigrant crowd resents elites who tell them they are wrong or uninformed. Well, sometimes reality isn’t what you’d like it to be. Nevertheless, the rest of us shouldn’t turn our economy inside out, engage in inhumane practices, waste billions on a wall, misuse our military and fan bigotry to preserve these people’s fantastical view of immigration, essentially a fictional creation that allows President Trump and his ilk to whip up their base.

It’s time to engage in good faith with those who demonstrate good faith — and that means agreement on a set of indisputable facts.