- Immigrant families have apparently not been deterred from illegally crossing the border, even after the Trump administration’s „zero tolerance“ policy.
- The Department of Homeland Security said this is because courts have prevented the government from detaining and prosecuting immigrant parents.
- But the administration celebrated an overall drop in border arrest numbers .
- Border Patrol arrested about 31,000 immigrants in July, down from roughly 34,000 in June and 40,000 in May.
The number of immigrant families arrested while crossing the US-Mexico border remained steady in July, casting doubt on whether the Trump administration’s family separations effectively deterred others from crossing.
In July, Border Patrol agents arrested 9,258 families at the border, newly released Customs and Border Protection data show.
That figure is only slightly down from 9,434 arrested in June, 9,485 in May, and 9,649 in April — the month that family separations began en masse under the Trump administration’s „zero tolerance“ policy.
Part of the reason for implementing the zero tolerance policy in the first place was to keep immigrants from crossing the US border illegally.
In May, White House chief of staff John Kelly called the policy a „tough deterrent,“ adding that family separations were „a technique that no one hopes will be used extensively or for very long.“
The Department of Homeland Security spokesman Tyler Houlton acknowledged in a statement Wednesday that family arrests remain „high,“ but blamed the steady numbers on recent court decisions that „prevent us from detaining and prosecuting family unit adults.“
Federal judges have recently knocked down several key components of the zero-tolerance policy, ordering that the Trump administration reunite the thousands of children it had already separated from parents and denying the government’s request to hold immigrant families together in long-term detention.
„The inability to apply consequences to any lawbreaker ultimately threatens the safety and security of the nation and its communities,“ Houlton said.
‚There are real consequences for breaking the law‘
It’s unclear whether the separations, had they continued, would have deterred more immigrant families from coming into the US.
Anecdotally, some immigrants have told media outlets they never would have crossed the border illegally if they had known their children would be taken from them.
„I think two months [of separation] are enough punishment for mothers to learn, and for them not to set off again on journeys they shouldn’t set off on,“ 25-year-old Elsa Ortiz, a mother deported back to Guatemala without her son, told Reuters last month.
But others say the opposite. One father, an asylum-seeker named Jose, told Business Insider in June that he heard rumors during his journey from Honduras that the Trump administration was separating families, but he crossed the border with his young son regardless.
He said it was too dangerous in his home country to consider turning back.
Beyond the family arrest numbers, the Trump administration on Wednesday celebrated an overall decline in border arrest numbers, which showed that Border Patrol made just 31,303 arrests in July.
That number — which includes families, unaccompanied children, and individual adults — has dropped from 34,095 in June and 40,333 in May.
The Homeland Security department touted the plunge as a victory for the zero-tolerance policy.
„This decrease shows that when there are real consequences for breaking the law, the conduct of those considering crimes will change,“ Houlton said. „In the month of July, we saw a decrease in illegal border crossings because human traffickers and Transnational Criminal Organizations were put on notice that this Administration was increasing prosecutions of those entering the country illegally.“
Daniel Brown contributed reporting.
Source: Business insider