US border authorities in June arrested or turned away the highest monthly number of migrants at the US-Mexico border in at least a decade, according to a Department of Homeland Security official familiar with the figures and to previously published data.

US Customs and Border Protection has continued to encounter around 40,000 migrants a week at the US-Mexico border, continuing a pace similar to that of the past couple of months, according to data reviewed by CNN.

Originally published by The Washington Post

The number of immigrants arrested by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents is falling, according to agency statistics released Thursday, the latest sign that a border surge is diverting enforcement efforts away from the U.S. interior, dealing a blow to the Trump administration’s deportation goals.

Arrests by ICE agents fell 12 percent to 34,546 between Oct. 1 and Dec. 29 of last year, the most recent period for which data is available. Though deportations by ICE rose 10 percent during that period in comparison with the previous year, the increase came from soaring numbers of detentions at the border – not as a result of more arrests by ICE in the U.S. interior.

Nathalie Asher, a senior ICE official who coordinates detention and deportation operations, said an explosion of people crossing the border has forced ICE to reallocate resources.

What you’re looking at is our interior arrests have been affected, Asher told reporters, noting that she has had to redirect resources to what she sees as the first priority, addressing what has been occurring and continues to occur at an alarming rate at the border.

The declining arrest numbers are a major change from the initial phase of the Trump presidency, when interior arrests rose by more than 20 percent and ICE officials said immigration violators should look over your shoulder in fear of arrest.

That aggressive stance, along with public arrests outside courthouses and other sensitive locations, triggered a backlash among immigrant activists and some Democrats who called for the agency to be abolished.

But the statistics released Thursday indicate the agency has diverted resources to cope with what Asher described as a crushing volume of arrivals at the border, especially parents bringing children. ICE has 6,000 agents assigned to arrest and deportation efforts, Asher said.

In February, U.S. authorities detained more than 76,000 unauthorized border-crossers, and Homeland Security Security Kirstjen Nielsen said she expects nearly 100,000 migrants will attempt to enter the country this month.

ICE has been so overwhelmed that it is releasing thousands of detainees into the United States each week, issuing some of them GPS tracking devices and others little more than a summons to appear in court months later.

In the past three months, ICE has released 107,000 migrant family members, Asher said.

In El Paso and the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas, ICE has been dropping off new arrivals at bus stations and church shelters that have been struggling to find beds for them. Asher said ICE is working with cities and charities to help them cope with the needs of so many parents with children.

Court limits on the government’s ability to hold minors in immigration detention for more than 20 days mean that adults who arrive with a child are typically issued a court summons and released from custody.

ICE has approximately 2,500 beds available for parents with children at what the agency calls family residential centers, but U.S. officials said last week that the agency is in discussions to transition one of its main family facilities, the Karnes County Residential Center, into an adult-only immigration jail.

Asher said on a regular basis, we’re having to look at our operational tempo in having to react to this influx at the border, so we are looking at a couple of our facilities and perhaps changing out the configurations as they currently are, Asher said. Nothing is set in stone.

The latest ICE figures show 90 percent of arrestees had a criminal record or pending criminal charges, though the labels include nonviolent offenders and immigration violations.

That is a shift from the first year of Trump’s presidency, when noncriminal arrests were the fastest-growing category of ICE detainees.

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Originally published by Politico

Throughout this election season – and ever since he declared his presidential candidacy – President Donald Trump has been calling illegal immigration a crisis.

I would like to provide an update to the American people regarding the crisis on our southern border, the president said in his Thursday speech on the subject, and crisis it is.

But the numbers tell another story.

The word crisis typically describes a problem that’s getting worse. According to Customs and Border Protection, arrests along the southwest border – the standard metric used to calculate illegal border crossings – numbered 396,579 in fiscal year 2018, which ended Oct. 1. That’s lower than the average over the previous decade(400,751). It’s also lower than the number of border arrests in fiscal 2016, 2014 and 2013.

It’s true there were more border arrests in 2018 than in 2017, a development that prompted Trump to level blistering criticism against Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen, and that led Attorney General Jeff Sessions to impose – without consulting DHS – the zero-tolerance border arrest policy that led to last spring’s surge in family separations.

But in 2017, border arrests had dropped to a historic low; to find a year with fewer border arrests, you have to go back all the way to 1971. Indeed, a September 2017 report by the Department of Homeland Security was able to boast – somewhat inconveniently as Trump sought to secure funding for a wall along the southern border – that the southwest land border is more difficult to illegally cross today than ever before.

And border arrests over the past decade, averaging 400,000 annually, are very low compared with recent history. In the 1980s and 1990s, border arrests seldom fell below 1 million. Border arrests peaked at 1,643,679 in 2000, and remained at or near the 1 million mark until the last two years of George W. Bush’s presidency.

Tougher border enforcement likely helped explain the decline in border arrests in the late 2000s, but the principal reason, experts agree, was a decline in illegal border crossings by Mexicans attributable initially to improvements in the Mexican economy and later to the Great Recession of 2007-2009.

After the recession ended, Mexican border crossings stayed low; in 2017 alone, the population of Mexican-born immigrants in the U.S. dropped more than 300,000, according to an analysis of Census data by the Pew Charitable Trusts. The sudden plunge, Pew reported, seems to be an acceleration of a long-term trend of native Mexicans returning to their homeland.

As Mexican border crossings declined, Central American border crossings increased. According to Pew, the U.S. population from the Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala has more than tripled since 1990, accelerating a trend that began in the 1980s with the rise of violence in those countries. But this substantial increase in Central American immigration, most of it illegal, has not come close to offsetting the decline in Mexican immigration.

One common justification for declaring immigration a crisis rests not on the number of immigrants crossing the border illegally, but on the mayhem they create after they arrive. Republicans … want to make strong borders, Trump said in his Thursday speech, want to get rid of any crime because of the borders, of which there’s a lot.

But study after study has shown that immigrants commit crimes at a lower rate than the general population. In a March study specifically focused on undocumented immigrants, University of Wisconsin sociologist Michael Light examined the relationship between illegal immigration and violence in 50 states and Washington, D.C., over a 24-year period ending in 2014 – a span that included the peak years for border arrests. His conclusion: Undocumented immigration does not increase violence. Rather, the relationship between undocumented immigration and violent crime is generally negative.

Another justification to label immigration a crisis is that it lowers wages for native-born workers. But economists have struggled to find evidence of this. George Borjas, a Harvard economist who favors more restrictionist immigration policies, concluded in his 2016 book We Wanted Workers that high school dropouts were the only group of native-born workers that lost significant income (about 3 percent) over the long term as a result of immigration during the peak years of 1990-2010. Individuals who graduated high school but never received a college degree – a core Trump constituency – actually experienced long-term wage gains as a result of this immigrant supply shock, Borjas found.

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