The number of people caught trying to sneak over the border from Mexico has fallen to the lowest level in 46 years, according to Homeland Security statistics released Tuesday that offer the first comprehensive look at how immigration enforcement is changing under the Trump administration.
During the government’s 2017 fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30, U.S. border agents made 310,531 arrests, a decline of 24 percent from the previous year and the fewest overall since 1971.
The figures show a sharp drop in apprehensions immediately after President Trump’s election win, possibly reflecting the deterrent effect of his rhetoric on would-be border crossers, though starting in May the number of people taken into custody began increasing again.
Arrests of foreigners living illegally in the United States have surged under Trump. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers made 110,568 arrests between inauguration and the end of September, according to the figures published Tuesday, a 42 percent increase over the same period during the previous year.
Tom Homan, ICE’s temporary director and Trump’s nominee to lead the agency, praised the president and gave a vigorous defense of ICE’s more aggressive approach.
“This president, like him or love him, is doing the right thing,” Homan told reporters at a news conference Tuesday in Washington, accompanied by the heads of the U.S. Border Patrol and Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS).
“A 45-year low in border crossings? That’s not a coincidence,” Homan said. “That’s based on this president and his belief and letting the men and women of ICE and the Border Patrol do their job.”
Trump’s sweeping promises to crack down on illegal immigration fueled his presidential campaign and are at the center of his most ambitious domestic policy proposals, including construction of a wall along the border with Mexico.
Asked whether such a barrier was justifiable given its high cost and the decline in illegal immigration, DHS officials endorsed the president’s plan.
“In this society, we use walls and fences to protect things. It shouldn’t be different on the border,” said Ronald D. Vitiello, chief of the U.S. Border Patrol. BUILD THE WALL!