The Trump Effect? Apprehensions of illegals at the border way down in February
The Department of Homeland Security says apprehensions of illegal aliens at the southern border dropped significantly from January to February. DHS announced that people caught crossing the border illegally had plummeted from 31,578 in January to 18,762 in February.
"Since the administration's implementation of executive orders to enforce immigration laws, apprehensions and inadmissible activity is trending toward the lowest monthly total in at least the last five years," Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said in a statement.
Earlier this year, immigration officials shut down two emergency processing centers, one in South Texas and one near El Paso, that they had opened in December to handle an influx of families.
On Monday, only 194 people were in the 830-bed family detention center in Karnes County, and 439 in the 2,400-bed facility in Dilley, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The agency said it's holding so few people because "fewer apprehensions are being made along the Southern border."
The numbers are a big drop from December, when so many families were crossing into the U.S. from Mexico, mostly in South Texas, that ICE released hundreds of people from the Karnes City and Dilley centers in San Antonio, without bus or plane tickets, to create bed space.
Apprehension numbers for January show the number of unaccompanied children and families crossing the border fell by about 40 percent from December, then dropped another 40 percent in February. Other apprehensions also decreased, though less dramatically.
Officials in the Mexican border city of Reynosa said they've seen a drastic decrease in the number of accompanied children at a government-run shelter there.
Mexico's family welfare agency in November housed 168 minors, including 124 non-Mexicans, at its Reynosa shelter. But by February, the number of minors had dropped to just 45, with only 13 from countries other than Mexico.
The decrease in apprehensions at the border comes as President Donald Trump and his Cabinet members have directed immigration officials to expand detention space and be more skeptical of asylum seekers. And Kelly has said he'll consider separating children from their parents at the border.
The numbers are suggestive, but not proof, that the Trump administration's border policies are having their intended effect. Trying to draw conclusions from one or two months of statistics doesn't take into account other factors that may be at work.
But illegal immigrant activists themselves are crediting the president's tough talk on illegal immigration for the dramatic drop in apprehensions:
The reasons for the decrease of asylum-seeking families remain a source of speculation, and it's not clear if the total number of people trying to cross the border illegally has slowed as significantly. Trump's tough talk on immigration is one of the reasons activists have suggested is stemming the flow of families crossing the border.
American Gateways, which provides immigration legal services in Central and South Texas, offers daily orientations at the detention centers. The week of Trump's inauguration, American Gateways would see about 70 women in each of its orientation sessions, said Brett Goodman, an attorney for the organization who leads its family detention team.
"Women in our (orientation) presentations have also expressed concerns of their quality of life in the United States, uncertain of how viable living safely and for an extended period of time in the United States will be for them during the Trump administration," Goodman said.
Again, statistics don't lie, but they also don't tell the full story. What seems clear is that if the president's executive orders on illegal immigration have done nothing else, they've forced potential border crossers to think twice about paying a coyote thousands of dollars to cross into the U.S. only to be deported immediately if they're caught.
The night-and-day difference between the lax enforcement by the Obama administration and President Trump's determination to confront the illegal immigration problem head on appears to be changing the perspective of border crossers. The soaring morale of border patrol agents and new policies that look to intercept illegals at the border and turn them back may have led to the beginning of a turning of the tide of illegal immigration.
The next few months will tell the tale if the "Trump Effect" is real or a mirage.