By Max Greenwood
March 8, 2017
President Trump's hardline rhetoric and policies cracking down on illegal immigration could be driving down the number of people illegally crossing the United States' southern border, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said Wednesday.
The Department of Homeland Security touted a steep decline in the number of border crossings in its monthly report for February – the first data to be released on the subject following Trump's first full month in office.
Customs and Border Protection reported that 18,762 undocumented immigrants were apprehended at the southern border last month, compared to 31,578 in January.
The number of unauthorized border crossings, Kelly said, were down 40 percent in February.
"The early results show that enforcement matters, deterrence matters, and that comprehensive immigration enforcement can make an impact," Kelly said in a statement.
It will likely take some time before it's clear whether Trump's tactics are working. Border crossings typically decrease in the winter and increase in the warmer months.
But the numbers are a welcome early marker for the president, who campaigned on the promise of cracking down on illegal immigration.
"The drop in apprehensions shows a marked change in trends," Kelly said. "Since the Administration’s implementation of Executive Orders to enforce immigration laws, apprehensions and inadmissible activity is trending toward the lowest monthly total in at least the last five years."
Days after taking office, Trump signed an executive order stepping up border security and authorizing construction of a massive wall along the U.S. southern border, taking the first steps in fulfilling his highest-profile campaign promise.
He has also said he wants to hire an additional 5,000 border patrol agents and 10,000 more Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, and DHS widened the criteria for undocumented immigrants who could be prioritized for deportation.
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