March Illegal Border Crossings Are the Highest of the Trump Presidency

Officials say monthly total of more than 50,000 underscores the need for the chief executive to dispatch the National Guard

by Brendan Kirby | Updated 05 Apr 2018 at 2:13 PM

U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents apprehended more than 50,000 illegal immigrants last month, the highest monthly total since President Donald Trump took office, offering the most compelling evidence yet that the so-called Trump Effect is over.

Most experts credited the president’s tough rhetoric for a steep plunge in border crossing attempts. Apprehensions plummeted from 42,463 in January 2017 to a multiyear low of 15,766 in April.

From that point, however, the numbers began to creep up. Last month’s figure, 50,308, was the highest since December 2016 and includes 37,393 people apprehended near the border and another 12,915 deemed “inadmissible” after arriving at border-crossing stations.

Experts closely examine border apprehension statistics as a rough proxy for how bad illegal immigration is. The general rule of thumb is that one illegal immigrant makes it through to the interior of the United States for every one caught by Border Patrol.

"It will indicate a staggering increase from last year, and they clearly emphasize the need for additional actions, such as what [Secretary of Homeland Security (DHS) Kirstjen Nielsen] announced today," a senior administration official told reporters Wednesday before the agency released the official number.

The briefing was held in conjunction with a plan to send the National Guard to the border.

The March figure represents a 37 percent increase over February and a 203 percent jump over March of last year.

"We're back up to some highs that we haven't seen in quite some time. And the decrease in crossings has gone away now. The 'Trump Effect' has gone away," Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) said Thursday on "The Laura Ingraham Show."

Experts said changes on the ground never matched the rhetoric that initially deterred would-be border jumpers.

"Not only that, but President Trump's been talking about amnesty for the last six months," said Chris Chmielenski, director of content and activism for NumbersUSA.

Chmielenski, whose organization favors lower levels of immigration, said the months-long debate over whether to grant amnesty to young illegal immigrants enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program raised hopes beyond the group of people who were eligible.

Border Crossings Surge
Illegal border crossings jumped to highest level under Trump.
MonthApprehensions
March 201354K
March 201457.4K
March 201539.2K
March 201646.1K
March 201716.6K
March 201850.3K
Source: Department of Homeland Security

"Word's gotten back to Central America and other parts of the world," he said.

Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), agreed the DACA debate has drawn illegal immigrants from south of the border. She said the pattern is familiar, as even talk of an amnesty raises expectations of people living in other countries who would like to come to America.

A 1986 amnesty that granted legal status to about 3 million illegal immigrants was supposed to include tough border enforcement measures. Like Trump's rhetoric, Vaughan said, publicity over the new security measures caused border crossings to drop sharply.

"But the tough enforcement never materialized," she said.

As a result, Vaughan said, illegal immigration surged again.

Related: Three Statistics That Explain Trump's National Guard Call-Up

The March border-crossing number highlights the need to close loopholes in the asylum process that make it harder to deport people who make persecution claims, Vaughan said — even if they are bogus. She added that it also justifies Trump's plan, announced Wednesday, to deploy the National Guard along the border.

"It does validate the case the administration has been making for some time now," she said.

Chmielenski said former President Barack Obama beefed up resources at the border during past periods of sharp increases in crossings.

"But he sent them down after the surge … Trump is trying to pre-empt it a little bit," he said.

PoliZette senior writer Brendan Kirby can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter.

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