According to the Trump Administration, US border crossings for Mexico into the US have suddenly decreased, hitting a five-year low in February of 2017.  This  drop coincides with the inauguration of Donald Trump, which makes the sharp decrease in numbers both unprecedented and worth investigation. What mess this so unusual is that according to the Department of Homeland Se?curity, the number of border crossings was up 35% from October 2016 until the inauguration–and then suddenly fell by 40%.

…in the period from Oct 1, 2016 to the Presidential inauguration, U.S. Customs and Border Protection reported 157,000 apprehensions of illegal immigrants – a 35 percent increase over the previous fiscal year, with family units increasing by more than 100 percent. However, since President Trump took office on January 20, we have seen a dramatic drop in numbers.

Early reports after the US election showed that border crossings were on the rise as immigrants from Latin America rushed to beat the construction of the new border wall. But the new wall is years from being built, and the number of border agents has not increased. So how did this sudden drop happen? There are a few possibilities:

  1. Desperate immigrants from Latin America are so afraid of Donald trump;s immigration policies that they would rather face poverty, hardship and political turmoil in their own home countries,
  2. The Trump Administration is lying.or
  3. This is a temporary downturn due to the huge surge of immigrants before the inauguration, and we will likely see the immigration rates go back to their previous levels, and soon,
  4. Human smugglers have increased the rates they charge, leading to fewer immigrants making the journey north.

To put these numbers into perspective, the number of people apprehended at U.S.–Mexico border hit a five-year low last month. Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly claims that  President Donald Trump’s tougher immigration policies is already working to deter undocumented immigrants from trying to make the trip into the United States.

However, no major changes at the border have been implemented yet. It is important to understand that illegal Immigrants take several weeks to come to the US from the Northern Triangle countries of Central America: Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. Those that had paid and were already on their way would likely continue their journey. So where did all the other people go?

Upon closer examination of the numbers, a large part of the recent drop comes from families with children as well as unaccompanied children. As immigrants adjust to the new policies and learn ways around them, the flow will likely increase again, since these families are fleeing from drug cartels, gang violence, and fates much worse than being deported by the US.

U.S. Border Patrol Apprehensions FY2017 YTD(October 1 – February 28)

USBP Demographic OCT NOV DEC JAN FEB Total
Southwest Border Unaccompanied Children 6,708 7,350 7,194 4,417 1,922 27,591
Family Units 13,116 15,588 16,139 9,300 3,124 57,267
Southwest Border Total Apprehensions 46,181 47,210 43,255 31,578 18,762 186,986

But the biggest issue in the immigration drop may be the sudden increase in the fees charged by human smugglers along the U.S. southwest border. According to US Customs:

Since Nov. 2016, “coyotes” have hiked their fees in some areas by roughly 130 percent – from $3,500 to $8,000 in certain mountainous regions.

Human smugglers have used the fear and uncertainty created by Donald Trump’s tough talk and have used it to exploit the vulnerable immigrants by more than doubling their fees. Once the fear subsides, these rates will come down and immigration rates will lily return to normal.

The Bottom Line:  This sudden, unprecedented decrease in border crossings is likely a temporary downturn due to the huge surge of immigrants before the inauguration.  Human smugglers have increased the rates they charge, leading to fewer immigrants making the journey north. We will soon likely see the immigration rates go back to their previous levels.


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