Originally published by The Washington Post
American immigration officials arrested 2,885 fewer people at the Southwest border last month than in June, the second month in a row that the number of migrants trying to enter the United States has dropped.
Data released on Wednesday by the Department of Homeland Security show that authorities apprehended 39,953 people at the American border with Mexico in July. The number of arrests in June totaled 42,838.
A senior Homeland Security official attributed the decrease in apprehensions in part to the Trump administration’s stepped up immigration policies at the border. But the official agreed with advocates and experts that the numbers also reflect seasonal flows of border crossings; individuals are more likely to travel in milder weather than during the often dangerous heat of summer.
An estimated 4,357 unaccompanied children showed up at the border in July, the data show, compared to 5,562 in a month earlier. Meanwhile, 12,285 people traveling in family groups were denied entry to the United States last month, compared to 12,386 family members in June.
The two consecutive months of fewer migrants followed a flood of people in the spring who illegally crossed the Southwest border and into the United States. More than 50,000 migrants were arrested after entering the country from Mexico each month from March to May.
But in 2017, illegal border crossings dropped to a more than 40-year low, a decrease largely attributed to Mr. Trump’s election. The springtime rise in people attempting to enter the United States was a source of frustration for the Trump administration’s crackdown on illegal immigration.
Tony Payan, director of the Mexico Center at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy, said he expects the number of migrants to rise as weather conditions improve.
“These are people fleeing harsh economic conditions and violence,” Mr. Payan said. “They are going to keep coming no matter what the enforcement policies are at the border.”
In April, the Trump administration announced a so-called zero-tolerance policy to prosecute all immigrants who illegally entered the United States. But by early July, facing an international outcry, officials backed off the policy, after it resulted in detaining thousands of adults and separating them from their children.
By the end of the month, the federal government had reunited more than 1,800 migrant families who had been separated. But about 711 children were not reunited with parents who were, for various reasons, deemed ineligible. That figure included more than 460 adults, most of whom are believed to have been deported without their children.
The number of people arrested at the Southwest border remains well below historic highs seen in the 1990s and early 2000s, when more than 1 million sought to enter the United States from Mexico each year. Since 2007, the number of illegal border crossings has continued to drop, and has remained under 500,000 people annually since 2010.