Border apprehensions drop again in December

Border apprehensions drop again in December
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Apprehensions of undocumented migrants at the southern border dipped slightly in December compared to the previous month, continuing a downward trend after a recent peak in May.

The Border Patrol apprehended 32,858 people illegally crossing the southwest border last month, a 2 percent drop from the 33,511 apprehensions in November.

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) turned away 7,762 people requesting entry into the United States at ports of entry in December, 15 percent fewer than the 9,140 people deemed inadmissible in November.

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Overall, CBP enforcement actions dropped 5 percent from November to December, according to a Thursday press release from the agency.

The downward trend is in large part due to the Trump administration's application of new border control policies, such as the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), also known as "Remain in Mexico."

“This seven month decline is a direct result of President TrumpDonald John TrumpNew Biden campaign ad jabs at Trump's reported 0 income tax payments Ocasio-Cortez: Trump contributed less in taxes 'than waitresses and undocumented immigrants' Third judge orders Postal Service to halt delivery cuts MORE’s network of policy initiatives and our ability to effectively enforce the law, enhance our border security posture and properly care for those in custody,” CBP acting Commissioner Mark Morgan said in the statement.

Although those policies have significantly reduced the number of Central Americans claiming asylum at the U.S. border, they have attracted criticism for putting migrants in harm's way and diminishing their chances at getting a fair shot in U.S. immigration court.

Under MPP, for instance, Central American migrants are returned to the Mexican city from which they tried to access the United States to request asylum while their cases are adjudicated in U.S. courts.

According to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) project at Syracuse University, which keeps tabs on migration patterns and outcomes, asylum-seekers who remain in the United States are seven times more likely to find a lawyer to represent them than those in MPP.

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Nine out of 10 asylum seekers in the U.S. attended all their court hearings, while only half of those returned to Mexico have shown up, according to TRAC.

Other programs that have contributed to the low border enforcement numbers have also drawn criticism domestically and internationally.

The United States and Guatemala have publicly debated the extent of the bilateral migration agreement the two sides signed last summer as the United States has begun deporting Mexican nationals to the Central American country.

According to CBP numbers obtained by The Hill, out of 322 individuals enrolled in the Guatemala Asylum Cooperative Agreement, 43 have been Mexican nationals as of early January.

The move to send Mexicans to a third country has drawn criticism from outgoing Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales, who has said the agreement’s breadth will have to be defined by President-elect Alejandro Giammattei, who will be sworn in next week.

And it's also generated political headaches for Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, a crucial partner in enforcing MPP.

Still, border enforcement numbers are down to their 2018 equivalent, a huge drop from the May peak of 144,116 apprehensions and refusals to admit.

Despite the low migration numbers, CBP Deputy Commissioner Robert Perez said Thursday, “the volume of drugs seized is a sober reminder that we are in the midst of a national security crisis on the Southwest Border.”

In December, CBP officials, who manage all ports of entry, seized 93,000 pounds of drugs nationwide, a 5 percent increase over November.

On a yearly basis, drug seizures overall were up 28 percent, fentanyl seizures are up 80 percent and heroin seizures up 27 percent, according to CBP.