Posted on September 5, 2019

U.S. Border Crossings Continue to Fall as Mexico Disrupts Migrant Flow

Michelle Hackman and Juan Montes, Wall Street Journal, September 4, 2019

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U.S. Customs and Border Protection took about 64,000 people into custody at the U.S.-Mexico border in August, according to a U.S. government official briefed on the latest numbers. That figure includes arrests of people who crossed the border illegally and those who went to legal border crossings, of which CBP processes about 10,000 a month.

The August figures are about 30% lower than July’s numbers, continuing a sharp decline in illegal crossings since reaching a 13-year high of 132,900 apprehensions in May. In eight of the last 10 years, border arrests rose from July to August, suggesting August’s drop in border arrests doesn’t track with seasonal trends.

The turnaround is a victory for the Trump administration, which has stepped up efforts in recent months to stem the flow of migrants north, including policies requiring some migrants to apply for asylum in the countries they cross before reaching the U.S. and sending other asylum seekers to await their immigration court dates in Mexico.

This spring, President Trump threatened to place tariffs on all Mexican exports, a direct threat against the country’s new president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, a leftist nationalist who campaigned on standing up to Mr. Trump and who slowed deportations of Central American migrants out of Mexico in the first few months of his tenure.

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As part of the deal with Mr. Trump, Mexico dispatched more than 20,000 members of its National Guard, a newly created force under military command, to Mexico’s southern and northern borders to support immigration officials. Mexican authorities installed dozens of checkpoints at roads all across Mexico and raided hotels and safe houses in search of illegal migrants.

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Deportations in Mexico jumped to 84,000 in the January-July period, a 38% increase compared with the same period of last year, while apprehensions rose 76%, data from Mexico’s immigration agency showed. Deportations in June hit a 13-year high. The vast majority of those deported are migrants from the so-called Northern Triangle countries—Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

{snip} A top Mexican official at the foreign ministry said the U.S. seems to be satisfied with Mexico’s response so far because the monthly flow of Central American asylum seekers crossing through Mexico fell more than 40% compared with May.

The official said the crackdown on irregular immigration will continue “indefinitely,” not just for the 90 days originally agreed with the U.S. in June. “This will be a permanent effort,” the official said.

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The rising number of apprehensions and deportations—and the increasing hurdles to request asylum in the U.S.—not only prevented many migrants already in Mexico from getting to the U.S.-Mexico border, but also discouraged new movements, experts say. Many migrants have decided against leaving now and plan to wait for more favorable times.