Trump’s Mexico Deal Unproven as Migration Drops in Summer Heat

Trump’s Mexico Deal Unproven as Migration Drops in Summer Heat

July 10, 2019

It isn’t clear whether President Donald Trump’s deal with Mexico to stem migration over the U.S. southern border is working.

A senior U.S. Customs and Border Protection official told reporters on a conference call that the number of migrants apprehended on the border fell in June, compared to May, due to hot weather. But the official later said the June 7 deal Trump negotiated with Mexico had an unspecified impact on reducing crossings, especially by large groups.

The official, who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity, said there were 94,000 apprehensions at the U.S.-Mexico border in June, down from 133,000 a month earlier. However, the June levels remain the highest in more than a decade, and migration continues to be a humanitarian crisis, the official said.

Border crossings and apprehensions historically dip in summer, when rising temperatures make the trip north more arduous and dangerous for migrants.

“The numbers are going down because Mexico is doing a lot,” Trump told reporters on Sunday. “Thanks to Mexico, it’s slowing down greatly, and I think you’ll start seeing some very good numbers.”

CBP released a statement late Tuesday on the combined number of people apprehended on the southern border or refused entry to the U.S. The numbers are the first real test of Trump’s Mexico deal, under which he agreed not to impose tariffs on the country’s U.S. exports.

Trump has complained about rising numbers of migrants crossing the border, a majority of whom are fleeing Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. He threatened tariffs unless Mexico curbed the flow of migrants through its territory. The Mexican government agreed to deploy soldiers at its own southern border and more vigorously police migration routes through the country.

Group Migration

As an example of Mexico’s increased enforcement, the U.S. official said Mexican authorities broke up one group of 200 migrants preparing to cross the border in June, with 60 making it to the U.S. The number of groups of at least 100 migrants traveling together — Trump’s so-called “caravans” — is falling, with only two such groups so far in July, the official said.

The official declined to say how much of the reduced migration in June could be credited to the Mexico deal. The U.S. is optimistic the reduction can be sustained as Mexican enforcement continues, the official said.

The Trump administration has recently come under intense criticism by Democratic lawmakers and immigrant advocates for conditions at CBP detention centers on the border, especially for children. Lawyers granted access to the centers have reported unsanitary conditions and say children haven’t received sufficient care or food.

About 200 unaccompanied children are in CBP custody, the official said. An unspecified number that the official said was a small percentage have been held longer than 72 hours. Federal law generally requires Border Patrol to transfer unaccompanied migrant children to more suitable detention centers maintained by the Health and Human Services department within three days.

Families spend about 48 hours in CBP custody before being released, while adults who cross the border alone spend about 12 days in detention, on average, the official said.

Migrants believe that U.S. authorities will swiftly release them if they cross the border with a child, the official said.

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