March 8, 2020 | From The Washington Times
Illegal immigration across the southwestern border is down so much that the Department of Homeland Security is deporting more people each month than it captures coming across, officials announced Thursday, meaning they are now able to eat into the backlog of cases that built up during last year’s surge.
Over the past five months, 14,000 more people were removed or returned across the Mexican border than arrived, including 1,170 in February.
Acting Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Mark A. Morgan said the number of illegal crossings ticked up slightly in February but was still far below the heights of last year’s wave.
He said the nature of the flow looks dramatically different now. Last year, smugglers were recruiting Central American families. Now they are looking at single adult Mexicans, Ecuadorians and Brazilian families.
But he said CBP is in better shape to deal with the situation, thanks to policies put into place and deals struck with Mexico and Central American countries over the past year, which give the government the chance to do something beyond releasing illegal immigrants into U.S. communities.
“We’ve got the tools in place now where we have the capacity to remove more people than we’re actually apprehending,” Mr. Morgan told reporters before announcing the February numbers.
After eight months of declines, the number of people apprehended by Border Patrol agents or encountered by officers at ports of entry ticked up from about 36,650 in January to about 37,100 in February.
Mr. Morgan said President Trump deserves credit for pushing the changes that allowed the U.S. government to get a handle on the situation. The administration suspended aid payments to key Central American countries until they agreed to do more to keep their people at home and to try to stop migrants from other nations from using their territory as a crossing point.
Mr. Trump personally threatened to slap tariffs on Mexico, which brought Mexican officials running to Washington to cut a deal. They agreed to expand their own immigration enforcement efforts and to accommodate people from Central America who crossed Mexican territory en route to the U.S., whom the U.S. then pushed back across the border to wait for their immigration court dates.
That U.S. policy, officially known as the Migrant Protection Protocols but more commonly called “Remain in Mexico,” has been a critical part of cutting the flow of Central Americans.
Immigrant rights activists call the Migrant Protection Protocols an abuse of human rights. They say the policy forces asylum-seekers to suffer dangerous conditions in Mexico and point to reports that have documented kidnappings and other violence perpetrated on migrants.
Homeland Security says those are generally cases in which the migrants, after being returned to Mexico, deal with smuggling cartels again for another attempt to jump the border.
(Excerpt from The Washington Times. Article by Stephen Dinan