The number of illegal border crossings has declined for its fifth straight month, according to new data. If the trend continues, fiscal year 2017 is on track to having the lowest number of apprehensions per year since the 1960s.
Fewer than 16,600 people were apprehended by Border Patrol trying to enter the country illegally in March, Customs and Border Protection statistics show.
More than 18,700 were apprehended in February.
The latest drop is about 71 percent lower than the December 2016 total of 58,478.
Apprehensions over the last two months are a clear indication the new administration’s tightened border enforcement is working, as the numbers usually increase significantly at this time of year, said Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly on April 5.
“This decrease in apprehensions is no accident,” Kelly said. “But while this recent decline in illegal migration is good news, we must ensure that the security of our southern border remains a priority to protect the nation from terrorists and other criminals.”
In March, Border Patrol apprehended just over 1,100 individuals from family units and approximately 1,000 unaccompanied alien children, said Kelly. This is compared to December when over 16,000 family units and over 7,000 unaccompanied children were apprehended.
Kelly said Homeland Security has already begun to take all appropriate steps to plan, design, and construct a physical wall, using the materials and technology that will most effectively achieve operational control of the southern border.
“DHS is also taking appropriate action to ensure that the parole and asylum provisions of federal immigration law are applied consistent with the requirements of the law—and not exploited by otherwise removable aliens,” he said.
For reference, in 1999, Border Patrol made 1,579,010 apprehensions, of which 97 percent were made along the southwest border.