Now, THAT’S great news!
It goes to show that when you act from a position of strength and stop acting like a pussy, people not only fear what you might do but grudgingly begin to respect you.
“This area used to be really hot,” said Marlene Castro, a supervisory Border Patrol agent, as she scanned the path ahead for immigrants who had crossed the Rio Grande illegally into the United States. “You couldn’t move. Every time you turned a corner, you’d run into group after group.”
At 10 p.m. on a Friday night, this once-bustling crossing point – a stretch of wild brushland between the Rio Grande and the sprawling Texas border cities of Hidalgo and McAllen– is desolate. The only signs of life, apart from the odd wildcat stalking prey, are Border Patrol agents lurking by the roadside in pickup trucks and SUVs.
Across the Southwest border, the number of immigrants caught crossing illegally into the United States has dropped dramatically. Fewer than 12,200 people were apprehended in March, a 64% decrease from the same time last year, and the lowest monthly number in at least 17 years.
Here in the Rio Grande Valley, ground zero since 2014 for the flow of asylum seekers fleeing violence and persecution in Central America, the number of families and unaccompanied children caught entering the United States has plummeted, from about 291 a day in January to just 37 a day in March.
Migration experts, Border Patrol agents and advocates offer plenty of reasons for the sharp decline in people crossing over, from President Trump’s aggressive stance on securing the border and media coverage of recent immigration raids to heightened security on Mexico’s southern border. A rise in smuggling fees could also be a factor.
“We don’t really have a normal anymore,” said Castro, who has worked for Customs and Border Protection for nearly 20 years. She insists agents are not doing anything differently; the Trump administration’s executive orders are simply enforcing laws already on the books.
“Are you going to risk a 1,000-mile journey and pay $8,000 to be smuggled if you’re not sure you’ll get to stay?” Castro said, offering a reason she thinks fewer asylum seekers are crossing over. “I wouldn’t.”
Yet while President Trump has delivered strong rhetoric, there have been few official changes in border enforcement. Amassing the funds to construct an expanded border wall is likely to take years, if it happens at all.
While Homeland Security officials were reported last month to be exploring a plan to separate adults and children caught illegally crossing the border, Kelly ruled that out Wednesday, telling a Senate committee he had ordered that mothers should not be separated from children unless a life was at risk.
Still, Trump’s strident stance on illegal immigration appears to have made some immigrants hesitant to make the journey.
“There’s a perception that it’s going to be very difficult for immigrants to cross into the U.S. and stay in the U.S.,” said Guadalupe Correa-Cabrera, an associate professor of public affairs and security studies at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. “It makes them think twice because the commitment is too big.”
Within Central America, news spread quickly of Trump’s plans to build a border wall and deport immigrants already living illegally in the United States, Correa-Cabrera said. Many are now calculating whether it’s worth paying smugglers as much as $7,000 to $11,000 to lead them on often-perilous routes north.
Another factor, some analysts add, is that smugglers took advantage of the political climate in the United States toward the end of last year, encouraging more people to cross the border before Trump took office.
“Their sales pitch to people in Central America was: ‘If you want to get into the U.S., you better come now, before the wall is built, and before the U.S. starts massively ramping up deportations,’” said Eric L. Olson, associate director of the Latin American Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington D.C. “Now that’s died off some.”