Illegal Border Crossings Plummet During Trump’s First Month

Homeland Security chief attributes decline to president's crackdown on illegal immigration

Mar 09, 2017 at 2:24 PM ET

The number of undocumented immigrants captured along the U.S. southern border plunged precipitously during President Trump’s first full month in office, prompting the nation’s homeland security chief to credit the White House’s aggressive stance on illegal immigration.

Nearly 19,000 people were detained or halted while trying to enter the U.S. from Mexico in February, according to data released Wednesday by Customs and Border Protection. The figure reflects a 36 percent drop from the previous February, which saw 26,000 people apprehended, and is the smallest number recorded by the CBP during that month in nearly two decades.

Even more striking is that the number was down more than 40 percent from January, when some 31,500 people were caught along the southern border. Since at least 2000, the number of apprehensions have increased in February as more people attempt to cross the border when the temperature rises, federal records show.

John Kelly, the homeland security secretary, attributed the dramatic decrease to the swift steps taken by the White House to crack down on illegal immigration. “The early results show that enforcement matters, deterrence matters, and that comprehensive immigration enforcement can make an impact,” he said in a statement. Since taking office, Trump has authorized the construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and pledged to hire thousands more Border Patrol agents, among other measures aimed at stopping undocumented immigrants from entering the country.

The sudden slowdown in illegal border crossings did not surprise some non-partisan experts on immigration. “Deterrence through perception is central to these executive orders,” Faye Hipsman, a policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute, told the New York Times. “Even floating the possibility of expanding detention at the border makes somebody less likely to come.”