Illegal Southwest border crossings were down 40 percent last month, according to just released Customs and Border Protection numbers — a sign that President Donald Trump’s hardline rhetoric and policies on immigration may be having a deterrent effect.
On Wednesday, CBP released figures showing that 18,762 undocumented immigrants were stopped at the US-Mexico border in February, a steep drop from the previous month when 31,578 were apprehended.
What made the 40 percent drop all the more notable was that typically there is an increase in traffic this time of year, according to Kelly.
“CBP historically sees a 10-20 percent increase in apprehensions of illegal immigrants from January to February,” the DHS chief said in a statement Wednesday.
There had been an increase in traffic in the months leading up to the sudden decrease as well, according to DHS.
The border agency recorded 157,000 captures from October 1, 2016 to January 20, 2017, the day of the presidential inauguration, representing a 35 percent uptick from the same period a year before, Kelly said. Additionally, families crossing illegally went up over 100 percent.
Kelly also cited price increases from “coyotes,” or smugglers, who “hiked their fees in some areas by roughly 130 percent – from $3,500 to $8,000 in certain mountainous regions,” the secretary said.
On Thursday, the White House praised the drop in crossings, which press secretary Sean Spicer described as “a significant deviation, even when you consider seasonal trends.”
Potential illegal immigrants “are already responding to the president’s agenda, even while we’re still in the beginning stages of putting his policies in place,” he said, adding that the president’s proposed border wall is still needed.
“It’s a commitment that the president made, and I think one of the things that the American people, regardless of where they stand across the aisle, appreciate about this president is that he’s a man that has kept his word,” Spicer said. “He made commitments to them and he’s fulfilling them.”
On January 25, Trump signed an executive order calling for a border wall and intensified enforcement. Trump has also called for 10,000 more Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and 5,000 border patrol officers to be hired, which the DHS has agreed to authorize.