After peaking in May, the number of people apprehended at the southern border has dropped for the second month in a row.
Border Patrol arrested roughly 72,000 migrants at the southwestern border in July, according to statistics published Thursday by Customs and Border Protection.
The latest statistics represent a 24 percent drop compared with June and mark the second month in a row in which border arrests declined.
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 migrants from trekking to the border, including a “remain in Mexico“ policy that requires some migrants to wait in that country while their bid for asylum is considered. Since that initiative launched in January, roughly 30,000 non-Mexican migrants have been forced to wait in Mexico pending the outcome of their cases, according to CBP officials.
Two caveats to note here. First, apprehensions frequently drop in the summer only to rise again in the fall as the weather cools. In FY18, apprehensions peaked in May (albeit at much lower levels) and then dropped off in June and July, just as they have this year. But the numbers were almost back up to their May peak by September of FY18. So it’s not safe to assume we’re out of the woods yet.
Second, even though the numbers are down for July, the total number of apprehensions is still higher than any single month in FY14-FY18. The numbers are down but as far as recent history goes, they’re still very high.
But as Politico suggests, there’s reason to believe the “remain in Mexico” policy is working as intended. When forced to choose between remaining in Mexico to await a chance to apply for asylum in the U.S. or simply going home, a lot of migrants are deciding to go home.
One potential sign that many are giving up: a government official in Washington familiar with the MPP initiative said an estimated 40 percent of the migrants returned to Juarez, Mexico, from El Paso did not show up for their initial court hearings. The official did not have permission to comment on the record and spoke on condition of anonymity.
The other factor is that Mexico is apparently making more of an effort to control their own southern border, which also limits the number of people who arrive here. This is a win for the Trump administration and should provide some relief to the overtaxed border agents who’ve been compared to Nazis for trying to do their jobs under extremely difficult circumstances.