The last three months of 2017 saw a slight increase in apprehensions and denials of would-be entrants to the United States at the southwestern border, according to new data released by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency.
However, these rates remain near 45-year lows, dips precipitated by a sudden and pronounced decline following President Donald Trump's swearing in at the end of January 2017.
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"The final border apprehension numbers of 2017, specifically at the southern border, undeniably prove the effectiveness of President Trump's commitment to securing our borders," said Tyler Houlton, the acting press secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. "This administration has overseen a 40 percent decrease in 2017 compared with the last year of Obama's presidency. U.S. Border Patrol apprehensions in Fiscal Year 2017 were at the lowest level in 45 years."
Between October and December of 2017, some 114,000 people were either turned away at designated ports of entry along the southern border, or apprehended as they attempted to illegally cross. That rate is notably higher than the approximately 87,000 apprehended or denied over the July to September period; 57,000 between April and June; and 82,000 between January and March.
Although notably higher than the banner-low rates of attempted entry over 2017, the end-of-year numbers are still lower than those for the same three-month period in years prior. They are also lower than the average number of apprehensions and denials between 2012 and 2017. They are substantially lower than the same period in 2016, having dropped 65 percent since the last year of President Barack Obama's term.
While single adults remained the majority of individuals apprehended or denied, the increase in the final quarter of 2017 was largely attributable to the attempted entry of more family units and unaccompanied minors. CBP found that the number of families attempting to enter increased by 21 percent; the number of unaccompanied minors increased by 7 percent.
CBP emphasized that the end-of-year bump signals the need for decisive action on the part of Congress, which is currently entangled in negotiations over the future of U.S. immigration policy.
"The significant increase over the last month in the number of family units and unaccompanied children coming across the border illegally highlights the dire need for Congress to immediately adopt responsible pro-American immigration reforms," Holton said.
Such a package would likely need to include a host of reforms in order to pass muster with the White House. Trump has repeatedly called for a southern border wall, and an end to chain migration and the diversity visa lottery.
DHS has echoed the president, and has further called for more funding and personnel for CBP and other immigration enforcement agencies, and the closing of "loopholes" including sanctuary city/state laws.
"Current loopholes in our immigration laws have created an incentive for illegal immigrants who knowingly exploit these same loopholes to take advantage of our generosity. The Secretary will require fixes to these loopholes as part of any immigration package," Holton said.