The number of illegal immigrants arrested by Border Patrol at the United States-Mexico border fell 24 percent compared with June of this year, signaling that a migrant surge that's burdened federal resources and ignited partisan battles on Capitol Hill may continue to recede during the summer months. Border Patrol arrested roughly 71,999 illegal aliens in July of 2019, according to figures released Thursday by Customs and Border Protection. That is down from nearly 94,908 in June of 2019, and 132,870 in May of 2019, the highest monthly total since 2006. Apprehensions at U.S. borders are the metric used to estimate how many illegal aliens enter the United States per month; however, the total number of illegal immigrants is usually higher than that of arrests.
The drop-off comes after border arrests soared earlier this year to levels not seen in a decade. The Trump administration has experimented with a range of strategies to deter immigrants from trekking to the border, including a "remain in Mexico" policy that requires some immigrants to wait in that country while their bid for asylum is considered. Since that initiative launched in January, roughly 30,000 non-Mexican immigrants have been forced to wait in Mexico pending the outcome of their cases, according to CBP officials. However, a decrease in numbers during the sweltering summer months is not unusual - in fact, June to July declines occurred in most of the last ten years.
The influx of migrants over the past several months overwhelmed federal authorities, prompting fierce criticism of squalid conditions at certain processing centers and shelters for unaccompanied children; most criticisms came from mass-immigration advocates, Democrats, and those who support open borders. Even as Congress approved a $4.6 billion funding package to deal with the crisis in late June, news reports of overcrowding and other problems at holding facilities are still prominent.
The latest border figures will likely continue to influence the planned assessments of whether new U.S. and Mexico enforcement measures have been effective. Sadly, it is too soon to tell if this drop in border apprehensions is actually due in part to Mexico's amped-up immigration enforcement or if it is merely following the trend of summer months in previous years. The worst possible outcome would be either the U.S. or Mexico becoming complacent again in immigration enforcement and relaxing talks on a Safe Third Country agreement, or failing to fix the numerous loopholes in the U.S. immigration system. This misplaced faith in dropping apprehension numbers, which in all likelihood are merely following the decade-old pattern of decreasing numbers over the hot summer months could create an environment that would worsen the crisis at the southern border when summer ends.