President Donald Trump made building a wall on the southern US border the centerpiece of his election campaign. But new data shows border detentions are at the lowest level in several decades.
“Build that wall” was a common chant at rallies in support of Trump, but border crossings are decreasing and US Border Patrol made only 310,531 arrests – a 25 percent decline from the 415,816 in 2016 and the fewest in 45 years, new data shows.
When a reporter asked White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders if that figure undermined the need for the wall, she responded, “I think it shows the effectiveness of the Trump presidency, and another success story as we wrap up the year.”
While arrests near the US-Mexico border have declined, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Removal Operations (ERO) have drastically increased immigrant roundups far away from the crossings. The agencies carried out 143,470 arrests and 226,119 removals – a 37 percent increase since Trump’s inauguration in January, compared to the same period in 2016.
“We have clearly seen the successful results of the president’s commitment to supporting the frontline officers and agents of DHS as they enforce the law and secure our borders,” said acting DHS Secretary Elaine Duke.
It’s unclear what threat most of the deported immigrants present. Some 90 percent of the immigrants arrested in the 2017 fiscal year had some type of criminal conviction or faced criminal charges. However, three out of four of the most common convictions involved traffic offenses or violations of immigration law and not violent crimes.
Soft targets have been among the high-profile deportations carried out under the Trump administration. Guadalupe García de Rayos, an Arizona mother who had been in the country for 21 years, was deported in February during a routine check-in with ICE officials. A 10-year-old girl with cerebral palsy detained by Border Patrol after a hospital visit was released from custody only after public outcry and a lawsuit by the ACLU.
In September, the Trump administration announced it would end DACA, the Obama-era program protecting some 800,000 immigrants from deportation who were underage when they arrived in the country illegally.
In October, the Justice department began ramping up efforts to force localities to enforce federal immigration law. Attorney General Jeff Sessions sent a memo giving 29 jurisdictions until December 8 to comply, or lose federal funding.