The number of illegal border crossings into the U.S. during the first full month of Donald Trump's presidency was 18,762, marking a 40 percent decrease for January and February, as opposed to the usual 10-20 percent increase over other months.
“The drop in apprehensions shows a marked change in trends,” U.S. Department of Homeland Secretary John Kelly said on March 8, notes Fox News. “Since the administration’s implementation of executive orders to enforce immigration laws, apprehensions and inadmissible activity is trending toward the lowest monthly total in at least the last five years.”
“The early results show that enforcement matters, deterrence matters, and that comprehensive immigration enforcement can make an impact,” Kelly continued.
Faye Hipsman, a policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute, said: “Deterrence through perception is central to these executive orders. Even floating the possibility of expanding detention at the border makes somebody less likely to come," The New York Times reports.
Amy Fischer, policy director at the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services in San Antonio, told the Los Angeles Times: “We do not know where they are now. We know the conditions in their home countries have not changed drastically. Why are they not coming? That’s the key question here. We do not have the answers.”
U.S. Customs and Border Protection reports about 1,370 people attempted to cross into the U.S. illegally every day in January. In February, that number dropped to about 840 people a day.
“When you start detaining people and deporting people, people stop coming in great masses,” Manuel Padilla, a chief in the CBP, said. “We’ve seen that historically throughout the years. We’re deporting people expeditiously, and just the fact that we’re doing that and the fact the administration is messaging that, they have quit coming in the same numbers.”
However, Fischer suggests, “We don’t know if essentially what’s going on is an increase in the collusion between Mexican and U.S. authorities to turn people away at the border so they are not counted as apprehensions."
Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, suggests the figures reflected a similar drop in immigration around President Ronald Reagan's 1986 immigration reform.
“The talk of tougher enforcement can, in fact, lead to reductions in the flow, but only for a short period of time if the words aren’t backed up with action,” Krikorian told The New York Times. He added, however, that during the Reagan administration, “the promises of tougher enforcement didn’t exactly pan out.”