The Trump administration’s short-lived zero tolerance border policy may turn out to be yet a another “win” for the resident. That is because it has finally got the media to focus on a huge problem that has flown under their selective radar for years. How huge? Here are just four stats that should really alarm all Americans:

50,000: About the number of people trying to sneak across our southern border every month. At that rate, the hoard of illegal immigrates crossing the border each year equals half the population of Maine.

75 percent: The portion of this hoard that Department of Homeland Security believes it intercepts. If you accept that optimistic apprehension rate (count me among those who do not), that means “only” about 200,000 illegal immigrates sneak into our country via Mexico annually. Or, a number of illegal immigrants equal to the entire population of Belfast every two weeks!

7,000 pounds: The typical quantity of illegal drugs seized by Customs and Borders Patrol agents every day. The amount of deadly fentanyl seized is increasing dramatically; over 300 pounds so far this year.

80 percent: How much of the heroin and fentanyl consumed in Maine came in across the border from Mexico. The next time you read about an overdose death, remember there are eight chances in 10 the fatal drugs came across our southern border.

The border situation is a mess on so many levels: Our policies and laws are uncoordinated and/or inappropriate; the Border Patrol is hopelessly underfunded and understaffed (unless of course you think allowing 200,000 undocumented people to successfully sneak into our country each year is acceptable); our court system is unable to handle the caseload in a timely fashion (which leads to “catch and release,” a whole other problem); the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) does not have the infrastructure to properly house the illegal immigrates that are being held while their cases are adjudicated, and, while we intercept massive quantities of illegal drugs every day, plenty of drugs still get through to poison our citizens.

These problems have been building for years. All the Obama administration did was kick the can down the road (by the way, they, too, “ripped children from the arms of their parents” — except the media ignored it!). In one of the all-time great ironies, the pictures that fired up the anti-Trump, return the children, crowd were actually taken in 2014 when President Obama was separating families.

So what is the solution?

Well, according to Jeh Johnson, who was secretary of DHHS during the Obama years, the solution is to fix the countries from which immigrants are fleeing. Honest — I heard him say this with my own ears! Two major problems with his idyllic solution: 1) Nation-building takes years and often fails (how is that Arab Spring doing?), and 2) The gangs and drug cartels that are actually running Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras are not likely to stop their nefarious and lucrative activities without a significant fight. Again, this problem is not new, but in eight years Obama did nothing to fix it. And, despite the current opportunity to appear the hero, no Democrat has offered a feasible plan.

As usual, when Trump sees a problem, he wants to fix it (a very rare mindset for anyone inside the beltway). Back in January, he offered a deal on immigration that lets 800,000 “Dreamers,” and certain other illegals who are already here, stay in exchange for enhanced border security. Specifically: Build the wall where needed, limit chain migration to immediate family and grandparents and end the visa lottery.

Democrats pilloried this solution (as they do all things Trump). The president’s proposed deal, a classic compromise, made sense then and makes sense now. It is a practical solution that can be quickly implemented. The key is: We need to stop people from sneaking into our country. Once they are across the border, the battle is lost. All the costs (human and monetary) associated with apprehension, housing infrastructure, court capacity and illegal drugs kick in.

There was a reason why for many years the USA sited the main East Coast immigration center on Ellis Island. Ships were required to disembark wannabe immigrants on the island — not at the docks of New York Harbor. Securing an island is easy, think moat instead of wall. A solution for today’s mess is at hand. Maybe Democrats could just pretend they thought of it.

This Month's Did You Know:

My grandfather, “Pop,” was a German citizen. As a young man, he worked as a merchant mariner. Just prior to World War I, Pop was an engineer aboard the luxury liner Cecile, aka “the mystery ship.” (The mystery being, how did the huge German ocean liner end up in the neutral port of Bar Harbor! But I digress.) The short story: Before Pop returned to Germany, he had fallen in love with America. After the war, Pop decided he wanted to permanently immigrate to the United States and began going about the process of obtaining necessary German passports, American visas and tickets for their voyage.

Finally, on Oct. 17, 1923, Pop and my grandmother (Grandma) lined up to board the ocean liner Rotterdam, bound for New York (The Rotterdam was built in Belfast, Ireland — but again I digress!). Prior to boarding, all passengers who were traveling to America for the purpose of immigrating were evaluated to determine if they were suitable candidates. This process included answering numerous questions and a medical examination.

The answers to 29 of those questions were permanently recorded on each ship’s manifest (and available today through the Ellis Island website). Those who lacked the proper paperwork, were ill, had criminal records or could not produce evidence of the required financial resources were refused passage. And this screening was just the first step for those hoping to immigrate to America.

Obviously, Pop and Grandma passed the initial tests or their story (and my story!) would be over.

Step two would take place at the Ellis Island Immigration Station. I believe my grandparents traveled in steerage because most folks in first class and second class were not processed through Ellis Island. Steerage passengers traveled below decks in unpleasant “dormitory” accommodations. Deaths among those passengers were not uncommon.

The Rotterdam arrived in New York Harbor on Oct. 26. At the immigrant welcome center on Ellis Island, Pop and Grandma’s documents were reviewed and stamped, they were re-questioned and subjected to a much more rigorous medical exam. If an immigrant had any of a long list of diseases, or was too ill or “feeble minded,” they were immediately deported. But because of the initial screening conducted prior to sailing, most people who made it to Ellis Island were soon cleared for entry.

Between 1890 and the start of World War II, over 20 million people legally migrated to the USA through bona fide ports of entry abiding by more or less the same rules that applied to my grandparents. They helped build this great country. Compare that to what is going on now along our southern border, where hundreds of thousands of people are trying to sneak into our country. They have no passports or visas. In fact, most have no identification at all. Thus the term “undocumented aliens.”

Randall Poulton lives in Winterport. He writes a monthly column for The Republican Journal.