WASHINGTON—Homeland Security officials said July 9 there was a 28 percent drop in the number of migrants encountered by Customs and Border Protection last month, amid a crackdown on migrants by Mexico.
There were 104,344 people encountered in June, down from 144,278 the month before. Homeland Security officials said the numbers of single adults, families, and unaccompanied minors encountered at the border had all declined but didn’t immediately give a breakdown. The tally includes apprehensions between ports of entry as well as people who were deemed “inadmissible” by Customs officers.
The monthly border apprehension numbers have become a yardstick by which President Donald Trump measures the success of his administration’s efforts to reduce illegal immigration, his signature issue. The number of migrants from Central America has risen dramatically this year. The president has repeatedly blamed House Democrats for failing to close the loopholes in U.S. law that are attracting the migrants.
In past months, shortly after reports of increasing numbers, Trump threatened to shutter the entire border. Last month, after he threatened tariffs on Mexico, leaders there agreed to expand Trump’s program making migrants wait on the Mexican side of the border. Mexican police, soldiers, and National Guard forces are raiding hotels, buses, and trains to round up Central American migrants before they can make it to the border.
Seasonal declines are common; fewer people make the dangerous journey when it’s so hot. Homeland Security officials said the May-to-June drop was 11 percent steeper than the same time last year.
Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan said he expected the numbers to be down, and said it was more than just a seasonal decline—Mexico’s efforts were making an impact.
But officials cautioned the crisis had not abated. Border Patrol has made 688,375 apprehensions through the end of June, a 140 percent increase over the same period last year.
The volume of people crossing the border has overwhelmed facilities. Border Patrol routinely is now holding as many as 20,000 people at a time when 4,000 is considered at capacity.
Inspectors from Homeland Security’s watchdog said in a report last week that they were concerned that overcrowding and prolonged detention were presenting serious health and safety risks not only to the migrants, but also to border agents and officers.
Top Homeland Security leaders are expected to testify Friday before the House Oversight Committee, chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said last week.
Deportations have increased from 19,856 in January to 23,081 in March, according to Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) data.
More than 91 percent of them had received criminal convictions or pending criminal charges, according to Nathalie Asher, ICE executive associate director.
But ICE has also had to divert resources to the border crisis, which has resulted in a 14 percent drop in administrative arrests compared to the same time last year.
Due to a shortage in detention capacity, ICE has released more than 200,000 migrants into the U.S. interior since Dec. 1, 2018, then-acting ICE Director Mark Morgan told reporters on June 19.
Nearly 90 percent of recent asylum-seekers have failed to report to court for their proceedings, he said.
In total, more than 1 million illegal aliens in the United States have deportation orders.
“[They] entered the country illegally, filed a false claim, have received due justice through the immigration proceedings, and they’ve found to be false, and they’ve received a deportation order removal,” Morgan told The Epoch Times in a previous interview. “A million, and they still remain here illegally.”
By Colleen Long
The Epoch Times contributed to this report.