Illegal border crossings plunge in Arizona

Not that you’d generally be able to tell by watching CNN or MSNBC, but there’s actually been quite a bit of good news lately. And it’s not just retail sales, Wall Street and historic low unemployment. In a surprising reversal of recent trends, the number of illegal border crossings observed in Arizona this winter is down. And I mean way down. We’re talking a reduction of more than 90 percent over the previous year during the same period. (Associated Press)

Illegal crossings plummeted across the border after the Trump administration made more asylum-seekers wait in Mexico for hearings in U.S. court. The drop has been most striking on the western Arizona border, a pancake-flat desert with a vast canal system from the Colorado River that turns bone-dry soil into fields of melons and wheat and orchards of dates and lemons.

Arrests in the Border Patrol’s Yuma sector nearly hit 14,000 in May, when the policy to make asylum-seekers wait in Mexico took effect there. By October, they fell 94%, to less than 800, and have stayed there since, making Yuma the second-slowest of the agency’s nine sectors on the Mexican border, just ahead of the perennially quiet Big Bend sector in Texas.

We’re in the middle of the cooler part of the year in the northern hemisphere and that’s usually when migrants are trying to make their way across the desert regions leading to the United States border. A reduction of crossings in one region from 14,000 to roughly 800 is more than just a statistical blip.

So what led to this happy development? It’s likely a combination of factors. Progress has continued on new and improved sections of the border wall, but there are still many gaps so that’s probably not one of the major causes. A far larger influence is no doubt coming from Mexico’s more aggressive approach to stopping caravans as they reach Mexico’s southern border, such as we saw this weekend.

But the big factor, at least in the eyes of our Customs and Border Protection folks, is the effect that Trump’s Remain in Mexico Policy has had on those looking to sneak across our borders. The AP offers at least a bit of anecdotal evidence to support this, quoting one migrant named Adolfo Cardenas. He and his son had made it from Ecuador to the American border in only nine days on a bus. He paid a coyote thousands of dollars to get him across the border.

At that point, he surrendered himself to CBP, saying he expected them to release him with a court date so he could go move in with his cousin in Dallas. Instead, he was put on a bus and shipped to the Mexican border city of Mexicali to await his day in court. He’s quoted as saying, “It was a surprise. I never imagined this would happen.”

Welcome to the new normal, pal.

The CBP Chief for the Yuma sector told the AP that once the option of just being released into the interior of the United States was taken off the table, the motivation for most of the migrants to take their chances by jumping the border was significantly reduced. Kind of makes sense, doesn’t it?

That doesn’t mean that we don’t need to keep working on the wall. We absolutely do. The fewer gaps we have and the more electronic surveillance we add, the easier the jobs of the CBP agents will be when attempting to locate and stop the remaining migrants who still want to give it a go. And we’ll also need to reward Mexico for their continued good behavior and assistance in blocking the huge groups who previously were allowed to pass freely toward our border every winter. The recent trade deal we signed with them is likely offering even more of an incentive for AMLO to keep up the good work.

It’s taken a few years to really bear fruit, but Donald Trump’s promise to get the immigration crisis on our southern border under control really seems to be turning into a reality. As I said, there’s still much work left to be done, but the numbers are moving in the right direction and with enough sustained will and effort, I’m almost to the point of allowing myself to hope that this could actually happen.