WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump's immigration offensive has produced an increase in arrests of deportation officers throughout the country during his first months in office. At the same time, arrests at the Mexican border have declined significantly, apparently because fewer people have tried to sneak into the US. UU
Figures published by the Department of Homeland Security show that Trump keeps his promise to tighten immigration control and suggest that potential immigrants are getting the message that they do not even think about crossing the border illegally.
Even as the border crossings diminish, Trump continues to press for his promised wall along the border, a wall that critics say is unnecessary and a loss of cash.
The new numbers, which offer the most complete snapshot of the immigration application under Trump, show that Border Patrol arrests plummeted to a minimum of 45 years in the fiscal year that ended September 30, with much fewer people being stopped between official border crossings.
In total, the Border Patrol made 310,531 arrests in fiscal year 2016, 25 percent less than a year earlier and the lowest level since 1971.
The authorities have attributed that fall to Trump's tough anti-immigration rhetoric and policy, which include widely publicized arrests of immigrants living illegally in the US. UU
"There is a new recognition on the part of aspiring immigrants that the United States is not welcoming," said Michelle Mittelstadt of the non-partisan Migration Policy Institute. She pointed to Trump's rhetoric, as well as his policies. "I think there's a feeling that the US is less hospitable."
But Mittelstadt also emphasized that the figures are part of a larger trend that began long before Trump took office: the improvement of the economy and opportunities in the country have stopped the tide of people crossing the border by job.
"Migration from Mexico has really been realigned," he said, noting that the number of Mexicans detained in 2017 fell by 34 percent compared to the previous year.
The decline in border crossings continues a trend that began during the Obama administration, and marks a dramatic decline since 2000, when more than 1.6 million people were detained crossing the Southwest border alone.
In general, the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement Service said that deportations in the last year fell by 6 percent compared to the previous year – a number related to the sharp decrease in border crossings, as well as a delay in the immigration courts that process deportations.
But that number masks a surprising increase in arrests outside the border. These arrests have caused fear and anger in immigrant communities, where many fear that the government is attacking them.
ICE said the number of "internal retirements" – people who were arrested outside the border – increased 25 percent this year to 81,603. And the increase is 37 percent after Trump took office compared to the same period of the previous year.
"The president made clear in his executive orders: there is no population off the table," Thomas Homan, acting director of ICE, told reporters in Washington on Tuesday. "If you're in this country illegally, we're looking for you and we're going to look for you."
In February, former Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, who now serves as Trump's chief of staff, dismantled the Obama administration's policy to limit deportations to people who pose a threat to public safety, convicted criminals and those who recently crossed the border, making anyone in the country vulnerable to arrest.
Trump campaigned like a hard-line immigrant, accusing Mexico of sending rapists and other criminals to the US UU and promising to build "a great wall on our southern border." As president, he has signed a series of travel bans aimed at restricting who can enter the country, pushed to review the legal immigration system and tried to crack down on so-called sanctuary cities that refuse to share information about illegal immigrants with the Federal authorities. He has also pressed to obtain funds for his border wall.
The new numbers, which include the final months of the Obama administration, provide new ammunition to Trump's critics who question the need to spend billions of dollars on a border fence if the crossings are already falling. But officials insisted that the wall was still necessary.
"Yes, the traffic does not work, that's a good thing," said Ronald Vitiello, Acting Deputy Commissioner of Customs and Border Protection. But, "taking the 1,000 arrests per day to say we're done is not telling what the facts are, we're still arresting almost 1,000 people a day crossing the border," he said.
Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi saw it differently.
"The administration can try to turn these numbers into whatever they want," he said. "But the fact is that after unprecedented investments in border security in the last decade, the border has become more difficult to cross and fewer people are trying."
Despite the general decrease in border detention, the numbers have increased every month since May and many of the detainees have been families and unaccompanied children.
The actual number of illegal border crossings is not known because many people enter undetected. The immigration authorities caught just over half of the people who entered the US illegally. UU From Mexico in 2015, according to a report commissioned by the Department of National Security. That is much lower than the success rate that DHS had publicly cited.
South of the Arizona border in the Mexican town of Nogales, many of the deportees who were having breakfast in a dining room run by a nonprofit group on Monday had been picked up in the United States far from the border.
"We are seeing many people who have established ties in the United States," said Joanna Foote Williams, director of education and advocacy for the Kino Border Initiative, while about 40 men and some women ate eggs, refried beans and tortillas. .
Spagat reported from San Diego. AP writer Anita Snow contributed from Nogales, Mexico. Follow Spagat and Colvin on Twitter at https://twitter.com/elliotspagat and https://twitter.com/colvinj
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