Illegals Surge at the Southern Border as the Trump Effect Dissipates

Public domain image via CBP Flickr photostream

Public domain image via CBP Flickr photostream


For about a year, the flow of illegals across the US-Mexico border dropped from a deluge to a steady drip. Now the flow has returned and with a vengeance.


U.S. border agents made more than 50,000 arrests in May for the third month in a row, the Department of Homeland Security said Wednesday, an indication that escalating enforcement tactics by the Trump administration – including separating migrant parents from their children – has not had an immediate deterrent effect.

DHS took 51,912 migrants into custody in May, more than three times the number detained in May 2017, a period when illegal immigration plunged following Donald Trump’s inauguration.

A breakdown of the May statistics show Border Patrol agents made 40,344 arrests in May, and U.S. customs officers determined another 11,568 migrants to be “inadmissible,” typically after taking them into custody at ports of entry along the U.S.-Mexico divide.

DHS statistics show the number of families who attempted to cross the border illegally increased by 435 percent last month in comparison to May 2017. The number of unaccompanied minors rose 329 percent.

U.S. agents detained 6,405 underage migrants in May, up from 4,302 last month. That category includes many teenagers and children who are seeking to reunite with a parent already present in the United States.

Most of the increase in border traffic this spring has been fueled by families and teenagers from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, many of whom say they are fleeing gang violence and wish to apply for asylum in the United States.

“Throwing everything and the kitchen sink at these vulnerable asylum seekers is not working, as the forces driving them are much stronger than the cruel deterrence policies being deployed by the administration,” said Kevin Appleby, the senior director of international migration policy at the Center for Migration Studies in New York.


There was speculation that the Democrat propaganda during the 2016 campaign that would have led the casual observer to believe that Trump was going to authorize summary executions for illegals had filtered into Mexico and Central America. When it became obvious that despite more rigorous enforcement the rules of engagement hadn’t changed, the flows started to accelerate again.

Public domain chart from US Customs and Border Protection,


The only good news in this chart is the knowledge of how much higher the numbers would be without the more aggressive actions by ICE and CPB.

However, the pressure promises to get worse. In May, for the first time since such records started being kept, there were more jobs available than there were people looking for work:

U.S. job openings rose to a seasonally adjusted 6.7 million at the end of April, a record high, and more than the 6.3 million Americans who were unemployed during the month. Openings had exceeded the available labor pool beginning in March, according to revised figures released Tuesday.

The figures are the latest sign the U.S. is facing a historically tight labor market. The jobless rate ticked down further in May to a seasonally adjusted 3.8%, the lowest since April 2000, the Labor Department said last week. The last time the rate was lower was in 1969, when young men were being drafted into the Vietnam War.


At the same time, Central America has sky-high unemployment in addition to being wracked by gang violence.

I think Jeff Sessions is on the right track in directing criminal prosecution for illegally crossing the border. The effect of that will be felt years down the road, though. It is clear that we need more detention space so we are not forced to acquiesce to a catch-and-release program. While I don’t think a wall from sea to shining sea is a great idea, putting wall sections in place will channel illegals to crossing points that can be heavily monitored and policed.

In short, we’re dealing with an intractable problem that may never be solved and can only be managed with significant effort.

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