News & Politics

Homeland Security Chief: Illegal Border Crossings Down 40 Percent

US Border Patrol Officers applaud as President Donald Trump is introduced before speaking at the Homeland Security Department in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2017. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Remember how the Obama administration was always claiming that “the border has never been more secure than it is now”? And you didn’t believe it because you knew Border Patrol agents were suffering from low morale because they weren’t allowed to do their jobs?

Now you can believe it.

The number of people illegally crossing the U.S. southern border has dropped 40 percent since the inauguration of President Donald Trump, Secretary of Homeland Security John F. Kelly announced late Wednesday.

The Homeland Security chief said that the drop represents “an unprecedented decline in traffic” and that it coincides with Trump’s new executive orders dealing with immigration laws.

January and February are usually busy months for illegal border crossings, but since Trump’s inauguration, border jumping is significantly down.

It looks like the president’s “controversial” immigration policies are working.

Kelly said in a statement at the DHS website:

The drop in apprehensions shows a marked change in trends. 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. This change in the trend line is especially significant because CBP historically sees a 10-20 percent increase in apprehensions of illegal immigrants from January to February. Instead, this year we saw a drop from 31,578 to 18,762 persons – a 40 percent decline.

This is encouraging news as in the period from Oct 1, 2016 to the Presidential inauguration, U.S. Customs and Border Protection reported 157,000 apprehensions of illegal immigrants – a 35 percent increase over the previous fiscal year, with family units increasing by more than 100 percent. However, since President Trump took office on January 20, we have seen a dramatic drop in numbers.

Additionally, we are seeing an increase in the fees charged by human smugglers along the U.S. southwest border. Since Nov. 2016, “coyotes” have hiked their fees in some areas by roughly 130 percent – from $3,500 to $8,000 in certain mountainous regions. Changes in U.S. policy, including the detention of apprehended aliens, drive up the smuggling fees.

As directed in my memoranda implementing the President’s executive orders, we remain committed to carrying out fair, impartial and humane enforcement of the nation’s immigration laws. We will remain vigilant to respond to any changes in these trends, as numbers of illegal crossings typically increase between March and May. However, the early results show that enforcement matters, deterrence matters, and that comprehensive immigration enforcement can make an impact.

Under Trump’s new directives, customs agents are allowed to send illegal border crossers directly back to Mexico, even if they’re not Mexican.

Under previous administrations, people from Mexico and Canada could be deported directly back home. But people from all other countries, such as from Central America, had to be detained until they could be flown back to their country of origin.

A DHS spokesman clarified the policy in an email to Univision on Thursday:

“Illegal aliens with a final order of removal are returned to their home countries”, said the spokesman, David Lapan, to Univision. “Some of those without a final order, who entered the U.S. through Mexico and who wish to appeal or seek relief through our immigration courts, could be sent to Mexico pending disposition of their case.”

Mexico has rejected the new immigration directives outright, saying it won’t let the Trump administration send non-Mexican citizens back into Mexico.

Roberto Campa, a Mexican official who heads the human rights department of the interior ministry, called the plan “hostile” and “unacceptable.”

While Trump’s immigration policies may be drawing outrage among some, morale among Border Patrol agents is reportedly skyrocketing.

Shawn Moran, vice president of the National Border Patrol Council, told Fox News in an interview last month that “he saw first-hand how morale plummeted under the Obama administration.”

Agents, he said, felt handcuffed by stringent policies that prevented them from doing their jobs. Under “catch and release,” they were releasing nearly 80 percent of the people they apprehended trying to enter the U.S. illegally, Moran said.

“When Trump was elected, there was an increase in optimism among the agents, but nothing like what we’ve seen in the past few days,” said Moran.