Cuccinelli: Number of migrants at US border is dropping

Ken Cuccinelli, the acting head of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, told Hill.TV on Wednesday that the number of migrants coming to the U.S. southern border has dropped significantly since record-highs in May.

“We have seen the numbers coming across the southern border dropping,” Cuccinelli said during an interview on "Rising." 

The number of border apprehensions at the U.S.-Mexico border surged to a 13-year high in May, topping 130,000, according to data released by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. 

Cuccinelli said recent drops in migration, particularly among asylum seekers, is due in large part to President TrumpDonald John TrumpFive landmark moments of testimony to Congress Lindsey Graham basks in the impeachment spotlight Democrats sharpen their message on impeachment MORE’s deal with Mexico. The president scrapped plans to impose sweeping tariffs on the country in exchange for Mexico’s promise to crack down on illegal migration.

“That’s really what’s driving the numbers down from that incredible peak in May down to below 100,000-82,000 in the most recent month of July,” Cuccinelli said, referring to the deal.

However, Cuccinelli emphasized that the flow of migrants at the border is still at “crisis level,” adding that congressional action is the only way to ensure “permanent, long-term solutions.”

Cuccinelli said, in the meantime, he hopes Trump will be able to also work out a deal with Guatemala and other Central American countries to help deter migrants. 

So far, this has been a challenge for the Trump administration. 

Newly elected Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei has walked back the country’s immigration agreement with the Trump administration that had previously been signed by outgoing President Jimmy Morales. 

Giammattei reportedly said on Tuesday that the Trump administration's demand for a “safe third country” agreement won’t work. Under the agreement, migrants would be required to apply for asylum in the country where they first land instead of the country where they ultimately want to settle.

“In order to be a safe country, one has to be certified as such by an international body, and I do not think Guatemala fulfills the requirements to be a third safe country. That definition doesn’t fit us,” Giammattei told The Associated Press.

This agreement has also been sticking point with Mexico, who has refused to sign it. Trump threatened tariffs on all Mexican imports unless the country signed a safe third country agreement, but Mexico resisted this pressure and instead deployed its newly created National Guard to deter Central American migrants.

The Trump administration has come under fire for its foreign policy in Central America’s Northern Triangle, which includes El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.

Some critics have accused the White House of pushing an agenda that will threaten a region that is already in turmoil. All three countries rank among the top 10 in the world for murder rates. 

—Tess Bonn