Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Despite what Trump says, arrests at the Mexican border are at a historic low

The number of people caught trying to cross the border with Mexico increased for a third straight month in April, but overall apprehension numbers remain at historic lows, according to data released last Thursday by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

The increase comes as more than 150 people from Central America have reached the border and applied for asylum, a caravan that has drawn the fury of President Trump and prompted his administration to redouble its efforts to secure the border.

U.S. Border Patrol agents apprehended 38,234 people along the U.S.-Mexico border in April, a 227% increase from April 2017, according to the new data. The Trump administration is pointing to that data as proof that the U.S. must do more to secure the border; “Our Southern Border is under siege,” Trump tweeted Friday morning after the numbers were released. “Congress must act now to change our weak and ineffective immigration laws. Must build a Wall. Mexico, which has a massive crime problem, is doing little to help!”

Yet immigration experts say the department is cherry-picking data to exaggerate the recent increase in border crossings. Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum, a group that advocates for immigrants, said it’s impossible to gauge the flow of people along the border by looking at only two specific months.

Overall, the Border Patrol is on pace to catch 363,000 people trying to cross the border in fiscal year 2018, which is lower than the total in seven out of the last 10 years. It’s also far below the peak during the 2000s, when Border Patrol was routinely catching more than one million people a year.

Even supporters of the Trump administration’s attempts to crack down on immigration say it’s hard to measure border security in monthly increments. Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, a group that has advised the Trump administration on ways to limit immigration, says the numbers are further skewed by the sharp drop in the months following Trump’s inauguration in January 2017, which she described as an “outlier” in the overall numbers.

“It’s hard to draw any conclusions just looking at particular points in time,” Vaughan said. “It’s really the longer-term trends that are important.”