Number of border crossers drops amid Mexican crackdown

PHOENIX (AP) — The Trump administration said Monday it saw a 30% drop in the number of people apprehended at the southern U.S. border from July to August, amid an aggressive crackdown by the Mexican government on migrants traveling north.

Acting Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Mark Morgan said at the White House that the percentage of border crossers who are traveling as families also slid from roughly 65% to 70% of all migrants to 55%.

Morgan credited President Donald Trump’s efforts to reduce immigration as well as the Mexican government’s clampdown on migrants traveling north, which it says resulted in a 56% reduction in three months. He played down the summer seasonal trend that traditionally sees fewer people attempting to cross in the heat, saying the drop has “nothing to do” with seasonal trends.

“We are absolutely encouraged by the downward trend of apprehension numbers but we know these numbers can always spike upwards,” he said. “History has shown that. We’ve seen it happen in the past.”

The Border Patrol apprehended just over 50,600 people at the southern border in August, compared to nearly 72,000 in July and over 132,000 in May, at the peak of illegal border crossings. Authorities at official ports of entries also turned away 13,300 people in August, an increase from the 10,000 turned back in July. There are about 19,000 people waiting in Mexico to formally request asylum in the U.S.

A majority of immigrants coming to the U.S. are Central American families who turn themselves in after crossing the border and are fleeing violence and poverty. Many seek asylum.

The administration has depended on Mexico for its “Remain in Mexico” program, which sends asylum seekers back to Mexico to wait for U.S. court hearings.

Morgan on Monday said the U.S. has returned 42,000 asylum seekers since the program began earlier this year but didn’t confirm reports that many had been kidnapped , robbed and fallen victim to extortion in Mexico. Homicides in Mexico have soared to nearly 35,000 last year, an increase from the peak of the 2011 cartel violence that left 27,000 dead.

Morgan said the Trump administration cannot rely on Mexico and Central American governments to address what he called a “crisis.” He urged Congress to act on the administration’s agenda, which includes curbing or eliminating protections for asylum-seeking families and children. The U.S. also has been pushing Guatemala and other countries to accept asylum seekers heading to the U.S.

The announcement Monday came as a federal judge in California on Monday reinstated a nationwide halt on the Trump administration’s plan to prevent most migrants from seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border. That policy banned most immigrants who pass through another country before reaching the United States from seeking asylum. It reversed decades of U.S. policy in what Trump administration officials said was an attempt to close the gap between an initial asylum screening that most people pass and a final decision on asylum that most people do not win.

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