Stephen Dinan, Washington Times, June 8, 2015
Illegal immigration across the southwestern border is on pace for the lowest year since 1972, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said Monday, claiming success a year after the surge of illegal immigrant children and families exposed major holes in U.S. policy.
Mr. Johnson said there is no guarantee that apprehensions–which he said are a direct indication of the total flow of illegal immigrants–will keep on that four-decade low pace, but said the signs are encouraging.
“The bottom line of all this is, in recent years the total number of those who attempt to illegally cross our southwest border has declined dramatically, while the percentage of those who are apprehended has gone up,” the secretary said at the Baker Institute for Public Policy at Rice University. “Put simply, it’s now much harder to cross our border illegally and evade capture than it used to be–and people know that.”
Through May, or the first eight months of the fiscal year, the Border Patrol had caught 213,145 illegal immigrants at the border. That was down 34 percent from the same point in 2014.
Much of Mr. Johnson’s math relies on an assumption that the more people the Border Patrol catches, the more are coming across–and vice versa. Mr. Johnson said he believes a drop in apprehensions is “a direct reflection of total attempts.”
But Rosemary Jenks, government relations manager for NumbersUSA, which advocates for stricter immigration limits, said top border officials have wavered on that equation, with some suggesting that more apprehensions is a good sign.
Ms. Jenks said one problem is that Homeland Security scrapped its previous definition of border security in 2010, and has yet to come up with a replacement.
“It’s a little hard to see how the secretary of Homeland Security could say basically that the border is secure when they don’t have a way to measure whether the border is secure,” she said. “Seems like there’s still a lot of illegal immigration.”