Apprehensions of illegal immigrants near the southwest border increased for the third straight month in July, indicating that illegal immigration is firmly headed back up after a steep drop following President Donald Trump’s inauguration.
The monthly Customs and Border Protection report indicates that U.S. Border Patrol agents nabbed 18,198 illegal immigrants, up from 16,087 in June. Customs officers apprehended another 6,833 foreigners at ports of entry.
The combined total of 25,031 represents a 13.5 percent increase over June and a 58.7 percent increase over the 15,773 apprehended in April, the low mark of Trump’s presidency.
Experts generally agree that for every illegal immigrant that Border Patrol agents catch, one slips through.
Advocates for tighter border control said the latest figures are another sign of the limits of rhetoric. Ira Mehlman, a spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, said the immediate plunge largely was due to publicity about Trump’s get-tough campaign promises.
But Mehlman said no new resources yet have been added to the border, and some Border Patrol officers report that Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials still in some cases are releasing illegal immigrants after issuing notices instructing them to appear in immigration court.
LifeZette detailed on Tuesday how little has changed under Trump in the way the federal government handles youths who arrive at the border unaccompanied by adults.
“It confirms what we’ve heard from Border Patrol that catch and release is not as ended as we thought it was,” Mehlman said.
July’s total is still down 41.1 percent from January and is the lowest number of illegal border crossings in any July over the past six years.
Still, activists find the trend alarming. William Gheen, founder of the Americans for Legal Immigration political action committee (ALIPAC), predicts the number will continue to rise.
“Initially, the illegal immigrants believed all the anti-Trump media and Spanish media hysteria,” he said, adding that — like ALIPAC and similar organizations — “They’re beginning to find out that he wasn’t serious.”
[lz_table title=”Border Crossings Rise” source=”U.S. Customs and Border Protection”]Apprehensions by month*
*Includes apprehensions at ports of entry
Gheen said illegal immigrants are responding to Trump’s decision to retain former President Barack Obama’s executive order creating the quasi-amnesty Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. They’re also responding to talk from some quarters of the White House that the president may be willing to accept some version of “comprehensive” immigration reform.
“Illegal immigration will continue to rise as Trump the president’s immigration policies become better known over Trump the candidate’s immigration policies,” he said.
Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, said the administration could set up temporary detention facilities near the border and beef up efforts to turn off magnets for illegal immigration, such as employers who hire illegal laborers.
“We can’t secure the border on speeches alone,” she said.
Trump frequently points with pride to declining illegal immigration as evidence of his administration’s success. But Mehlman said delivering on those promises depends partially on the willingness of Congress to fund the president’s border security initiatives. For the fiscal year that starts October 1, Trump has requested a down payment on a wall along the Mexican border and money to hire more immigration officers and add detention space.
The administration, he said, also needs to figure out a way to quickly turn back illegal immigrants with no claim to America who are caught near the border.
“Those things certainly will make a difference,” Mehlman said, referring to increased personnel and detention requests. “But increasing the number of Border Patrol officers doesn’t do any good if they’re just going to process them and let them go.”