Attempted illegal entries at the southwestern border rose 37 percent in March, a 203 percent increase compared against March 2017, according to data released by the Department of Homeland Security Thursday.
A total of 37,393 individuals were apprehended attempting to illegally cross the southwestern border with Mexico in March of 2017. That number included some 5,000 unaccompanied minors and 14,000 family units. Both groups are generally detained briefly and then released into the interior pending further immigration hearings, a policy which administration officials and prominent Republicans have derided as "catch and release."
Although the percentage-wise increase between March 2017 and 2018 is substantial, this is partially because rates of illegal immigration fell so low that month; just 16,000 people attempted to cross the border illegally, the second-lowest number recorded in the last five years.
The increase in March represents a continued rebound following a precipitous decline during the first year of President Donald Trump's administration. Some commentators have referred to this phenomenon of a sudden, sharp decline in illegal immigration rates as the "Trump Effect," attributing it to the president's tough-on-immigration rhetoric.
However, the latest increase adds to evidence that this initial immigration drop may be abating. A statement from the Department of Homeland Security underscored the department's concerns about the present rate of illegal immigration.
"The crisis at our Southwest border is real," said Tyler Q. Houlton, DHS press secretary. "The number of illegal border crossings during the month of March shows an urgent need to address the ongoing situation at the border. We saw a 203 percent increase from March 2017 compared to March 2018 and a 37 percent increase from last month to this month—the largest increase from month to month since 2011."
Although increasing, attempted border crossings still remain at historic lows, a fact President Trump acknowledged in a Thursday afternoon tweet.
"Because of the Trump Administrations actions, Border crossings are at a still UNACCEPTABLE 46 year low. Stop drugs!" Trump wrote.
Concerns over border security and illegal immigration, including a possible caravan of would-be illegal immigrants which has largely dispersed, prompted the White House to announce a new proposal to deploy National Guard troops to the southwestern border. Similar to previous National Guard border deployments under Presidents Bush and Obama, guardsmen will operate in a support role, providing surveillance, vehicle repair, and border wall maintenance.
As part of its comment on the new immigration numbers, DHS made clear that controlling the southern border was a number one priority for the administration.
"Illegal aliens continue to exploit our immigration laws. We need to close these dangerous loopholes that are being taken advantage of each and every day, gain operational control of the border, and fully fund the border wall system. As the president has repeatedly said, all options are on the table," Houlton said.