Illegal border crossings were down 18% in June compared with May according to the Department of Homeland Security. The agency credits its zero-tolerance policy for the drop in migration numbers.
“Following the implementation of the Administration’s zero-tolerance policy, the June 2018 Southwest Border Migration numbers declined by 18 percent when compared to the previous month,” the agency said.
“DHS will continue to enforce the rule of law and uphold our nation’s immigration laws as passed by Congress,” wrote DHS Press Secretary Tyler Houlton in a statement emailed to ITN.
“As we have said before, the journey north is dangerous and puts individuals in the hands of smugglers and traffickers. We continue to call on Congress to address the crisis at the border by closing legal loopholes that drive illegal immigration.”
The administration announced a policy in April by which any individual apprehended crossing illegally into the United States would be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. They would be prosecuted in federal court for illegally entering the country, instead of being released in the U.S. with a promised hearing by an immigration judge at some point in the future.
American immigration laws create an incentive for individuals, especially unaccompanied minors, to make the trip to the U.S. under treacherous conditions. If they make it and claim a “credible fear” of returning home to war-torn countries or countries ravaged by crime and gang violence, they are almost assured the ability to stay in the country, albeit temporarily.
An inordinate backlog of asylum cases means it may take years before their case is heard and they are asked to prove that claim. Many never return to the courts to do so even when their case is called.
Over the last ten years there has been a 1,700% increase in asylum claims according to DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, resulting in a backlog of over 600,000 cases.
The zero tolerance policy resulted in the separation of young children from their parents and guardians however, as the adults were prosecuted for crossing illegally and the children were not.
The separations turned into a humanitarian crisis as pictures soon emerged of children held in cages sleeping under aluminum “heatsheets” to keep them warm. The publication of audio recordings of children crying out for their parents after being separated and revelations of “tender-age” detention facilities where children and babies younger than 5 years old, as well as special needs children, were being held alone, fueled a political backlash that proved to be too much the White House to bear.
Last month President Trump signed an executive order directing DHS to reverse its separation policy. According to DHS, some 2,000 children have been separated from their parents and guardians and placed in detention centers since April. The agency is now working to reunite those families.
The zero-tolerance policy however, remains in effect.
Photo by U.S. Customs and Border Protection via Flickr