Illegal crossings along the southwest border topped 50,000 for the second straight month in April, according to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), adding additional evidence that the 2017 lull in such immigrants is long gone.
The U.S. Border Patrol apprehended 38,234 illegal immigrants in April. Customs officials deemed another 12,690 people “inadmissible” at border-crossing stations. The 50,924 total was up slightly from March and more than triple the 15,766 from April 2017.
Experts watch apprehensions as a proxy for overall illegal immigration, estimating that roughly one migrant makes it across for every one stopped.
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Officials from President Donald Trump’s administration cited the March figures as justification for deploying the National Guard to augment border enforcement efforts. That move brought derision from critics who argued that the step was unnecessary because illegal immigration was at a decades-long low.
Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), said the newest numbers should make it clear that border crossings are marching up again.
“This narrative that illegal immigration is a thing of the past is completely false,” she said.
Vaughan said she does not believe it is a coincidence that the surge over the past two months took place right after a highly publicized debate over an amnesty measure.
“Illegal migrants respond to incentives,” she said. “They believe that if they make it here, they are going to be able to stay for an indefinite period of time.”
Last month’s border apprehensions are the most in April since 2014, when the number hit 59,119.
Department of Homeland Security press secretary Tyler Houlton said the agency has significantly increased referrals to the Department of Justice (DOJ) for prosecution and added that DOJ has increased resources along the border to process asylum claims.
“To those seeking to abuse our generous laws — we are watching,” he stated. “We will not sit back and watch our laws be exploited. If you make a false immigration claim, you will be referred for prosecution. If you assist or coach individuals in making false immigration claims, you will be referred for prosecution.”
Hector Garza, vice president of the National Border Patrol Council, said every sector along the border is different. He said that in the Laredo, Texas, sector where he is stationed, border crossers make up a mix of different nationalities and different motivations.
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[lz_table title=”Border Surge Continues” source=”Department of Homeland Security”]April 2018 southwest border apprehensions
“We’ve been seeing a lot of criminal aliens with records in the United States, a lot of drugs,” he said.
Aside from rising apprehensions, Garza said border agents in the Laredo area have seen signs of increased activity. This includes a spike in stash houses, more police pursuits, and an increase in tips from the public about smugglers’ loading migrants into vehicles.
“We don’t have any physical barriers, and we’re short-staffed at the Border Patrol,” he said. “So, we can’t catch what we don’t see … It’s kind of crazy, but it’s lawlessness along the border.”
Garza said about 200 members of the National Guard arrived two days ago. He said that should help, especially because the Guard has helicopters that can provide air support.
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A wall also would help, he said, by slowing down border crossers and funneling them to areas where agents could more easily make arrests. He noted that many politicians have described the Rio Grande as a “natural barrier,” making a man-made wall unnecessary.
“That’s very incorrect, because the river does not stop illegal immigrants or drug smugglers,” he said. “We see it on a daily basis.”
Vaughan agreed that the National Guard will help plug holes. But she cautioned that the additional manpower might lead to a short-term spike in apprehensions before the deterrence kicks in.