The number of aliens caught crossing the southwest border continued a sharp decline in August, according to preliminary figures obtained by Politico. U.S. Border Patrol arrested roughly 51,000 migrants in August, a 30 percent drop from the previous month.
Although it is commonplace to see a dip in arrests at the southern border during the hot summer months, the Trump Administration persists the latest figures signal that recent bilateral agreements between the governments of Guatemala, Mexico, and the U.S. may be reducing the number of border crossers. Border arrests rose from July to August in eight of the last 10 years, which suggests the current drop is not related to recent historical patterns.
President Donald Trump has made reducing illegal immigration a major focus of his administration and reelection campaign. The number of aliens arrested at the border soared in the spring to the highest monthly levels in more than a decade. At the peak, Border Patrol arrested approximately 133,000 migrants at the southwest border, the biggest monthly total since March 2006.
Trump's signature project, a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, has been hampered by an unwillingness in Congress to provide billions in funds, but the Supreme Court in July allowed the administration to access $2.5 billion from a Pentagon counter-drug fund for construction. In addition to that pot of money, the Defense Department announced Tuesday that it would use $3.6 billion in military construction funds to pay for border barrier projects in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. The funds are tied to a national emergency that Trump declared in February after Congress refused to fulfill a similar funding request.
Aside from physical border security, the administration has taken other steps to discourage people from trekking northward from Central America. Officials from the U.S. and Mexico reached an agreement in June that required Mexico to deploy 6,000 members of its newly formed National Guard to intercept migrants. The U.S. also moved unilaterally to expand its "remain in Mexico" program, which forces certain non-Mexican asylum seekers to wait in that country pending the resolution of their cases.
Customs and Border Protection acting Commissioner Mark Morgan lauded the progress of the pact during a roundtable with reporters last month. He said approximately 30,000 asylum seekers had been sent to Mexico since the June agreement and that Mexico had mobilized 25,000 National Guard troops to deal with illegal immigration at both its northern and southern borders.
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Updated: Wed, Sep 18th 2019 @ 3:55pm EDT