- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 8, 2017

President Trump has overseen huge increases in arresting illegal immigrants inside the U.S., pushing them through the immigration courts toward deportations and stopping newcomers from entering along the southwestern border, according to statistics released Tuesday.

While the giant border gains reported in the early days of the presidency have diminished, Mr. Trump is still well ahead of the Obama era, with the number of illegal immigrants being snared — a measure of the overall flow — down by 46 percent in July compared with the same period last year.

The immigration courts are also moving faster in ordering deportations, issuing nearly 50,000 removal orders from February through July — up 28 percent compared with the same period last year under President Obama.

Administration officials said the numbers show Mr. Trump has taken the immigration issue seriously, which was one of his most prominent campaign promises.

At the border, the U.S. is on pace for the lowest number of apprehensions in four decades. That number is considered a rough yardstick for the overall flow, meaning a drop in the number of people caught signals a drop in the overall flow of illegal border crossings, officials say.

In the interior, deportations are down this fiscal year, but arrests by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement are up, as are orders of removal issued by immigration courts in the Justice Department.

That suggests the issue isn’t a lack of willpower but rather a change in the composition of people ICE is handling. Simply put, Homeland Security officials say fewer people caught at the border means fewer people who can be deported without facing long legal battles.

“You have fewer people coming across the border, so you necessarily, eventually, have fewer removals,” said David Lapan, a spokesman for the Homeland Security Department.

One danger sign, though, is a renewed spike in the numbers of families and unaccompanied alien children (UAC) who are jumping the border. The Border Patrol reported a 27 percent rise in UAC apprehensions and a 46 percent surge in people traveling as families in July, compared with June.

Just a few months ago, the administration appeared to have resolved the problem. UAC and family apprehensions hovered at about 1,000 a month.

But UAC numbers are now nearly 2,500 a month, and family apprehensions were nearly 3,400 in July.

During the Obama-era surge, those numbers reached more than 10,000 a month each for UAC and family apprehensions, as Central American migrants streamed north, believing lax enforcement would give them a chance to earn a foothold in the U.S.

The Trump administration has been trying to dig out of that hole with a series of policies including targeting for deportation UAC and families that have had their day in immigration court but are ignoring orders or removal.

Mr. Trump has also asked for money to begin building his border wall, with prototypes to be built later this year.

Mr. Lapan said Homeland Security is studying the trends and isn’t certain whether they mean a new spike or just seasonal tweaks.

“The short answer is we don’t know what all of those causes are,” he said.

Still, even with the rise month to month, the numbers are lower than they have been in years.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the ports of entry recorded 6,833 inadmissible aliens trying to enter. The Border Patrol, meanwhile, nabbed 18,198 people who had sneaked across the border.

The combined number of 25,031, while the highest under Mr. Trump, is lower than any month under Mr. Obama dating back to December 2011.

When considered on a year-to-year basis, the gains are indeed stunning. In July 2016, the Border Patrol nabbed 33,737 illegal immigrants — 85 percent more than this year’s total.

The president has repeatedly cited progress on the border as one of his major successes early in his tenure. He pointed to the progress as one of the reasons he tapped his first homeland security secretary, John F. Kelly, to become White House chief of staff.

Immigrant rights advocates have vehemently complained about Mr. Trump’s expanded focus on enforcing immigration laws and begged him to use discretion to stop deporting longtime illegal immigrants who, despite their unauthorized status, have been able to build roots in their communities.

In one new case, advocates complained that ICE is preparing to deport an illegal immigrant woman in Texas whose 8-year-old daughter is battling lung cancer. The Obama administration allowed the woman to remain in the U.S. on a temporary stay of deportation, but the Trump administration reversed that decision.

“Trump’s deportation agents have reached a new level of cruelty,” said Lynn Tramonte, deputy director of America’s Voice Education Fund. “Taking an 8-year-old’s mom away, leaving the child to battle a rare form of cancer alone? This is what inhumanity looks like when it’s allowed to infect a bureaucracy.”

Activists have also planned a series of marches and rallies in Washington next week, the fifth anniversary of the start of Mr. Obama’s deportation amnesty for Dreamers, known in governmentspeak as DACA.

That program is protecting about 800,000 young adult illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children and who have kept relatively clean records while completing or working on their education.

Mr. Trump is facing a Sept. 5 deadline to decide whether to defend the DACA program in court. Texas has said it will ask a federal judge to invalidate the program unless the administration agrees to phase it out. Immigrant rights advocates are demanding that Mr. Trump defend the program, even though his top advisers say they have little hope of winning the case.

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

• Andrea Noble can be reached at anoble@washingtontimes.com.

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