The Trump administration on Wednesday celebrated what the Department of Homeland Security said was an unprecedented drop in illegal crossings at the country’s Southwest border since the president took office Jan. 20.
The number of apprehensions fell about 40 percent from January to February, according to the statistics released Wednesday evening.
“This change in the trend line is especially significant because CBP historically sees a 10-20 percent increase in apprehensions of illegal immigrants from January to February,” the agency said in a statement. “Instead, this year we saw a drop from 31,578 to 18,762 persons — a 40 percent decline.”
The agency credited the decline to the president’s executive order on immigration announced Jan. 25, which includes plans to increase detention space for unauthorized crossers, the fast-tracking of the border wall and order for Customs and Border Protection to immediately hire thousands more Border Patrol and customs agents.
“This trend is encouraging because it means many fewer people are putting themselves and their families at risk of exploitation, assault and injury by human traffickers and the physical dangers of the treacherous journey north,” the statement continued.
If the trend continues, it could result in a dent this fiscal year in the number of immigrant children and family units from Central America crossing into Texas illegally.
Agents in the Rio Grande Valley sector of the U.S. Border Patrol came across about 52,000 families and about 36,700 unaccompanied minors during the 2016 fiscal year, compared to 27,400 and 23,864, respectively, in 2015.
From October of 2016, when the federal government’s current fiscal year began, through the end of February, the Rio Grande sector has already seen more than 17,300 minors and 38,600 family units. But the numbers fell off significantly from January to February, from about 6,300 family units to 2,000 and from about 2,700 minors to about 1,085.
The statistics were released the same week the Trump administration announced it was considering a policy where mothers who were apprehended or turned themselves in at the border would be separated from their sons and daughters after being processed by federal authorities.
During a visit to Homeland Security offices in Dallas Tuesday, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said the policy would discourage families from making the dangerous trek from Central America through Mexico, the Dallas Morning News reported.
The department also reported on Wednesday that due to the administration’s recent actions, smugglers, known as coyotes, have increased their fees for smuggling undocumented immigrants through some of the routes they commonly use.
“Since Nov. 2016, ‘coyotes’ have hiked their fees in some areas by roughly 130 percent — from $3,500 to $8,000 in certain mountainous regions,” the statement said. “Changes in U.S. policy, including the detention of apprehended aliens, drive up the smuggling fees.”