President Donald Trump visited Border Patrol and viewed equipment such as a predator drone, surveillance truck, and a boat, in Yuma, Arizona, on Aug. 22, before an evening rally in Phoenix.
“We are building a wall on the southern border which is absolutely necessary,” Trump said at the rally, adding that Border Patrol staff told him that the fencing at the Yuma–Mexico border is vital.
“Now the obstructionist Democrats would like us not to do it. But believe me, if we have to close down our government, we’re building that wall,” Trump said.
Earlier in the day, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials touted the Yuma sector as a prime example of how securing the border through fencing, technology, and agents can heavily reduce illegal crossings.
The Yuma sector has a 126-mile border with Mexico and in 2005 was besieged with illicit border crossings.
“For three years, Yuma battled entrenched smuggling groups for control of the border,” said a Border Patrol video. “Mass incursions often left agents outnumbered 50 to 1. Agents were assaulted with rocks and weapons daily.”
In 2005, more than 2,700 vehicles crossed the Colorado River and open deserts, loaded with migrants and drugs, according to the video.
Apprehensions steadily increased to more than 138,000.
Following the Secure Fence Act of 2006, Yuma tripled manpower and added mobile surveillance, as well as fencing and vehicle barriers.
Yuma went from 5.2 miles of fencing prior to 2006, to 63 miles, and has subsequently seen an 83 percent decrease in border apprehensions. By 2009, Yuma apprehensions fell to about 7,000 and has remained steady since.
The physical barrier plays the role of slowing down, impeding, and denying people and vehicles into the United States, so agents can respond, a DHS official said.
Nationwide, the number of apprehensions of illegal border crossers on the 1,997-mile southwest border have decreased 46 percent (to 126,472 individuals) between January 1 and July 31, year over year.
During that seven-month period, year over year, the number of Mexican nationals apprehended has dropped 47 percent to 62,687, while the number of unaccompanied minors crossing has gone down 54 percent to 14,282.
“We’ve made great strides,” said a DHS official on a press call, Aug. 22. “Those who cross our borders illegally don’t respect the laws of our nation.”
With illegal border crossings down, more resources are being deployed for interior enforcement, said a DHS official.
“Coupled with a strong border, we need to have strong interior enforcement,” he said.
“We know that as we increase our interior enforcement efforts, individuals who once thought that if they could get by the Border Patrol or get smuggled in and not apprehended, that they were home free,” the official said.
“That is no longer the case.”
Since Trump signed executive orders pertaining to immigration at the end of January, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has arrested 91,000 people known to be in the country illegally or have violated their immigration status—a 43 percent increase from the same period in 2016.
Of the 91,000, 72 percent have criminal convictions. The remainder have either been charged with a crime, are an immigration fugitive, or are a repeat immigration violator, according to a DHS official.
“We are focused on criminals and those that are public safety threats,” the official said. “We have over 500,000 immigration fugitives.”
The official said sanctuary cities create one of the biggest challenges.
Due to sanctuary policies, which often stop local law enforcement from cooperating and communicating with ICE officials, “there are criminal aliens we can’t get to,” the DHS official said.
“We can’t get into the jails and identify and take enforcement action against individuals who are arrested for a criminal violation. So that’s obviously a much more efficient and safe process—both for my officers and for the public—to be able to do that.”
ICE usually issues a detainer, which is a legally authorized request to law enforcement agencies to hold an individual for up to 48 hours in order to allow ICE to assume custody.
“All of our detainers are accompanied by a warrant, and there is probable cause established and demonstrated when we serve that, and we provide that to the detaining law enforcement agency,” a DHS official said.
Challenges also remain in the immigration court system, where a DHS official said nearly a million cases are in process.
Following his stop in Yuma, Trump will travel to Phoenix for a 7 p.m. rally at the Phoenix Convention Center.
This article was updated on Aug. 23, following Trump’s speech at the rally in Phoenix, Arizona, on Aug. 22.