Illegal alien apprehensions at the southern border have plunged to levels not seen in months, according to sources inside the U.S. Border Patrol. In fact, should current trends hold, August apprehensions will not likely exceed 45,000 — a nearly 100,000 person reduction since May’s high of 144,000 — making August the third month in a row that apprehensions have fallen.
At this point, the yet-to-be released numbers offer a reason for cautious optimism. If this decline continues through the fall months, then it’s safe to say that we have a new positive trend in our nation’s fight to end “catch and release” and regain control of our borders.
Of course, some will immediately dismiss the downward trend as a result of summer heat. But recent data shows that the seasonal dip in apprehensions during the hot summer months usually accounts for an overall decrease of roughly 12 to 15 percent on average. The projected August numbers are a two-thirds reduction from the high water mark in May and could actually be due to several key Trump administration initiatives taken to reign in the “catch and release” mandate that has incentivized illegal immigration for decades. These include:
1. The Mexican government’s crackdown on illegal immigration. In response to trade pressure from the Trump administration, Mexico promised to step up its security measures on its own southern border, dispatching thousands of federal troops to the Guatemalan border.
2. The migrant protection Protocols (MPP). This agreement forged with the government of Mexico allows for would-be asylum seekers to remain in Mexico awaiting their court hearings in the U.S., which are generally 50 to 60 days later. So far, 35,000 people have been enrolled in the MPP instead of being caught and released into the U.S.
3. The Safe Third Country Agreement with Guatemala. Set to take effect in the next month, the new “safe third country” agreement between the United States and Guatemala requires migrants that pass through Guatemala to apply for asylum there first. Only after they have been denied asylum in Guatemala can potential asylees seek safe haven in the U.S.
4. The new “Flores rule.” The new Flores rule allows for families seeking asylum to be held together in family residential centers while their asylum cases are heard by the U.S. courts. Called a “game changer” by Mark Morgan, the acting director of Customs and Border Protection, this updated rule could greatly reduce catch and release by holding applicants until they receive their day in court.
5. Construction of the border wall. The funding has been made available and new and repaired border wall is currently being built. This wall, where built, has been an incredibly effective deterrent to illegal immigration and has helped reduce cross-border crime.
Should the next few months reveal that this downward turn in apprehensions is actually a trend, it will present a huge, short-term victory for the Trump administration, that hasn’t enjoyed a scintilla of cooperation or help from Congress in securing our borders. Unfortunately, because nearly all of this has been accomplished outside of the legislative framework, it could undone easily by the next administration. In other words, Congress needs to act to ensure these smart reforms stay in place.
Furthermore, it’s worth noting that while the apprehension numbers are down from earlier this summer, they are still unacceptably high. In June of 2014, President Obama stated there that was “an actual humanitarian crisis on the border” prompted by a surge of migrants from Central America” that averaged 35,000 to 70,000 per month over the course of that year. In other words, despite the fact that there have been improvements, the border remains a humanitarian and public safety issue.
Immigration is a top issue for voters, and it’s because they want more border enforcement and a workable asylum process that protects the lives of those seeking refuge while dissuading those who simply aim to con the system. By cracking down on rampant asylum fraud, we ensure that the U.S. will always be a safe haven for those who are truly fleeing persecution.
Dave Ray is director of communications at the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.