It’s become relatively quiet on the Southwest border, as the number of immigrants crossing illegally into the United States has plummeted to its lowest point in 17 years, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times.
Data shows that “fewer than 12,200 people were apprehended in March, a 64% decrease from the same time last year, and the lowest monthly number in at least 17 years.”
According to Marlene Castro, a supervisory Border Patrol agent, the Rio Grande area used to be literally crawling with illegal immigrants. “You couldn’t move,” she recalled. “Every time you turned a corner, you’d run into group after group.”
The number of families and unaccompanied children caught entering the United States has gone from approximately 291 a day in January to just 37 a day in March.
Experts say that reasons for the drop in illegal entrants are due to President Trump’s immigration crackdown, which has led to increased media coverage of immigration raids and more security on Mexico’s southern border. It’s also likely that higher smuggling fees have contributed to the decrease in illegal crossings.
Having worked for Customs and Border Protection for nearly 20 years, Castro says that agents are not doing anything differently and that the Trump administration’s executive orders are enforcing laws that already exist. In her opinion, the high cost of smuggling probably isn’t worth the dangerous journey to come to the U.S. and get turned away at the border.
“Are you going to risk a 1,000-mile journey and pay $8,000 to be smuggled if you’re not sure you’ll get to stay?” Castro pointed out. “I wouldn’t.”
When Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly testified on Wednesday before a Senate committee, he said that the decline in illegal border crossings is “no accident” and has everything to do with the “support of our leadership in the White House.”
The White House is crowing about the change, having announced that “the president’s commitment to securing our border and supporting law enforcement is already showing results.”
News of Trump’s plans to build a border wall and deport illegal immigrants already living in the United States appears to be having a chilling effect on Central Americans, who now consider the slim chance of being allowed to stay in the U.S. too perilous to risk their money and lives.
Analysts are also pointing to the fact that smugglers have been taking advantage of the past administration’s lax attitude towards immigration and began encouraging more people to cross the border before President Trump took office.
“Their sales pitch to people in Central America was: ‘If you want to get into the U.S., you’d better come now, before the wall is built, and before the U.S. starts massively ramping up deportations,’” said Eric L. Olson, associate director of the Latin American Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington D.C. “Now, that’s died off some.”
H/T: Los Angeles Times
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