The Trump administration may finally be able to celebrate a win on immigration: border crossings fell by nearly half in August after the White House inked a deal with Mexican officials that improved that country’s interdiction of so-called “migrant caravans” before they reach the United States’ southern border.
Politico reports that only 51,000 arrests were made at the southern border in August, “down more than 60 percent since a peak in May,” when border arrests jumped over 100,000. Of course, 50,000-plus arrests is by no means a small number, and it’s still clear that there’s much work to be done to curb a sharp jump in illegal immigration that’s taken place over the last year, but the decline is significant.
Politico notes that experts attribute the drop in arrests to efforts on the part of the White House to come to a deal with Mexican officials — specifically Mexico’s president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who took office back in December of 2018 and pledged to improve his country’s relations with the Trump administration.
Earlier in 2019, the White House announced that it would seek tariffs on Mexican goods — and, perhaps, shut down commerce with Mexico altogether — if Mexican officials didn’t begin taking the threat of illegal immigration seriously.
Since mid-2018, caravans of thousands of migrants from Guatemala, El Salvador, and other central American countries have been snaking their way through Mexico towards the United States, often without any significant resistance from Mexican authorities. Although Mexico offered migrants the opportunity to remain in Mexico on work visas and provided free transportation back to Guatemala for the occasional migrant who ran afoul of Mexican law enforcement, thousands upon thousands of migrants were still making their way to the U.S.-Mexico border per month, clogging border patrol facilities and forcing immigration enforcement to a near standstill.
Mexican authorities responded to the White House’s threats, however, and began intercepting caravans in southern Mexico and improving immigration control at their own southern border, adding thousands of border patrol officers and empowering individual immigration offices in Mexico’s southern provinces to turn migrants back.
“Amid pressure from Trump, officials from the U.S. and Mexico reached an agreement in June that required Mexico to deploy 6,000 members of its newly formed National Guard to intercept migrants, including many from Central America,” Politico reports.
There’s also another key change in how the U.S. treats migrants that’s making a difference: “The U.S. also moved unilaterally to expand its ‘remain in Mexico’ program, which forces certain non-Mexican asylum seekers to wait in that country pending the resolution of their cases.”
Now, migrants seeking asylum are no longer being immediately welcomed into border patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement facilities along the southern border on the American side, making it less likely that unserious asylum seekers — those who do not meet the standard for claiming or being granted asylum — will be released into the United States pending an adjudication hearing.
President Donald Trump acknowledged the drop in a press conference, telling reporters that “The numbers are really good. I want to thank again the country of Mexico. They have 25,000 soldiers now right protecting our border. And they’ve done a fantastic job, so we appreciate that very much.”
The administration plans to assess the impact of the new measures with delegates from Mexico this week, but the plan seems to be chipping away at what was once a major problem — and it’s clear that the president’s opponents have noticed. Although immigration issues were front and center among Democrats before the summer recess — even spurring emergency congressional appearances at the border and a heavily attended protest against the administration’s immigration policies outside a Democratic debate back in June — even progressive Dems like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have remained mostly mum on the issue.