Better border security and stiffer immigration enforcement isn’t just good for America — it will also keep vulnerable migrants from making the dangerous journey north, risking robbery, rape or death at the hands of smugglers and rough terrain, top Trump administration officials said Tuesday.
As President Trump prepares to visit Yuma, Arizona, later in the day, Homeland Security officials said his get-tough approach to illegal immigrants is already paying off with fewer people making the trip.
Unauthorized border crossings are down, and so are overall deportations, as there’s a smaller pipeline of new easily-deported migrants at the border.
That means U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has been able to make a dent in the massive backlog of illegal immigrants in the interior of the country, where removals are up 32 percent.
“An individual who crosses and gets past the Border Patrol should no longer feel secure,” a senior Homeland Security official said in briefing reporters ahead of the president’s trip. The White House allowed officials to speak to reporters on condition they remain anonymous.
Mr. Trump will visit a Customs and Border Protection hanger at an airport in Yuma, where he will inspect equipment that’s helped improve security at what used to be one of the border’s most porous areas.
Little more than a decade ago, the Border Patrol’s Yuma sector nabbed 380 illegal immigrants on the average day. In April, the Border Patrol nabbed just 244 the entire month — an average of 8 a day. The numbers have risen since, but are still fewer than 30 a day.
Measured against the entire border, the Yuma sector accounted for 12 percent of all illegal entrants, based on apprehension numbers in 2005. Now that’s fallen to about 3 percent.
Homeland Security officials credited a massive border-wall building campaign under President George W. Bush, which took Yuma Sector from 5 miles of fencing and vehicle barriers to 63 miles today.
Officials also said more agents to patrol the barrier, more technology to help them detect breaches, and stiffer prosecutions for those caught sneaking in, rounded out the efforts that have made such a difference.
Officials said everyone is safer — from U.S. communities to the agents themselves to the migrants who aren’t making the journey anymore, since the reward of gaining a foothold in the U.S. is less likely. That has forced would-be migrants to reevaluate their risk-reward calculus.
The administration said that’s their goal particularly when it comes to the Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC) or families traveling together — usually mothers and their children — who are leaving Central America, believing they can make it to the U.S.
The risk of rape along the journey was so prevalent that women and girls would begin to take birth control ahead of time, to at least try to prevent pregnancy. Long walks through dangerous jungle, repeated demands for additional money and threats and beatings are also common, U.S. authorities say.
“We’re trying to dissuade, especially when it comes to UACs and family units, dissuade them from making that dangerous journey north,” one Homeland Security official said.
Immigrant-rights advocates counter that the families making the journey north are fleeing horrific violence, crime and poverty back home and should be welcomed as refugees, not turned away as illegal immigrants.
After a round of arrests several weeks ago netted UAC and families who’d been ordered deported but were refusing to leave, immigrant-rights activists blasted Mr. Trump.
“The United States used to be a nation others looked to with respect to those fleeing for safety. Now we are sending armed agents into neighborhoods to target those who came here seeking refuge,” Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice, said after the arrests. “The Status of Liberty weeps today.”