Illegal Crossings Plummet As Coronavirus Pandemic Shuts Down Border

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Jason Hopkins Immigration and politics reporter
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Arrests along the U.S.-Mexico border in April dropped to some of their lowest levels in several years after the Trump administration restricted border crossings due to the coronavirus pandemic.

There were a total of 16,789 enforcement actions on the U.S. southern border in April, according to the latest data provided by Customs and Border Protection (CBP). That figure marks a 50% drop in enforcement actions compared to March, and a substantial decline from the more than 109,000 actions taken in April 2019. Enforcement actions are now at their lowest since April 2017.

Enforcement actions include both apprehensions made by CBP agents and individuals who were turned away at the border. When broken down, agents in April made 15,862 apprehensions and turned away 927 individuals who appeared at the border.


Agents look for traces of men suspected of carrying drugs near Marfa, Texas on January 29, 2020. (PAUL RATJE/AFP via Getty Images)

The precipitous decline comes after President Donald Trump declared both the northern and southern borders effectively closed to all non-essential traffic.

The order, first announced March 20 and extended for another 30 days on April 20, only permits “essential” cross-border movement. This consists of travel for medical and educational purposes, emergency response operations, public health services, and anyone engaged in “lawful cross-border trade.”

Notably, the order strictly prohibits the entrance of any individual who does not have proper documentation or illegal entrants. All illegal immigrants are ordered to be immediately turned back when possible.

Border Patrol agents have long used Title 8 to apprehend and detain foreign nationals who illegally cross into the U.S., and this authority is still being used. Since the border shut down, agents have also utilized authority under Title 42, which allows for the swift process and return of illegal entrants.

Aliens processed under Title 42 are intended to be kept out of facilities where they are “encountered,” carrying less legal ramification than an “apprehension.” These aliens are also not “deported,” but technically “expelled,” a process that can be conducted much faster. (RELATED: Senate Republicans Urge Trump To Suspend All Guest Worker Visas Amid Coronavirus Pandemic)

Title 42 was wielded prolifically in April, according to CBP’s latest data.

Of the 15,862 apprehensions made last month, 14,416 were expelled under Title 42 and only 1,446 were apprehend under Title 8. The data suggest the vast majority of illegal aliens appearing before the border are being swiftly turned back instead of being processed at facilities where they risk spreading the coronavirus.

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