Some good news on the border. Apprehensions of illegal immigrants dropped again in August, making this the third straight month of decline. From Politico:
Border Patrol arrested roughly 51,000 migrants in August, a 30 percent drop from the previous month…
Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan addressed the falling arrests Wednesday during a press conference with Trump at the Oval Office. McAleenan said border arrests had been more than halved in August compared with the May peak, but told reporters that finalized statistics were being compiled and would be released next week.
Trump praised Mexico’s recent efforts to halt migration during the press conference, which centered on the response to Hurricane Dorian as it approached the Carolinas.
“The numbers are really good,” Trump said of the still-unofficial August arrest figures. “I want to thank again the country of Mexico. They have 25,000 soldiers now right protecting our border. And they’ve done a fantastic job, so we appreciate that very much.”
The 30% drop in August follows a 24% drop in July. However, the current numbers are still above average for the past two years. What’s significant about this drop is the timing. If you look at a graph of border apprehensions you’ll notice they follow a seasonal pattern, often peaking in the spring and then dropping off during the hot summer months. But the numbers often pick up again in August and September. As Politico notes, “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.” So while we’re not out of the woods yet, if we see one more month of declines (for September) then we’ll definitely be bucking a trend.
Most observers agree that Trump’s “remain in Mexico” policy has a lot to do with the change. That policy sends asylum seekers back to Mexico to await a decision rather than releasing them into the United States. In July the Texas Tribune reported there was some evidence that asylum seekers sent back to Mexico were choosing to give up and 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.
One major reason people might be giving up: Gang violence connected to the drug trade has spiked in Mexico recently with a record-setting 33,000 murders recorded in 2018. Some Central American migrants are deciding they are better off heading home.
A majority of the people making asylum claims will not be found eligible because they are, in fact, economic migrants. You can see that in this PBS News Hour report published Wednesday. Also in this report, Sec. McAleenan says the number he is hoping to reach is about 20,000 apprehensions per month. That’s the point at which the Border Patrol will no longer trying to manage a crisis.