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Trump Is Quietly Winning Bigly At The Border

Last week, 18 people crossed the border illegally into Arizona hoping they could exploit a loophole in U.S. asylum policy to stay in the country. Instead, they found themselves shipped back to Mexico while their asylum claims are reviewed.

In the midst of impeachment mania and the killing of an Iranian general, this event captured little attention. But it’s part of a broader campaign that the Trump administration has quietly embarked upon to crack down on illegal border crossings. And – even without the wall – these policies are having a huge impact.

The 18 migrants were sent back to Mexico thanks to a policy President Donald Trump implemented that goes by the official name of “Migrant Protection Protocols” (MPP), but more colloquially known as “Remain in Mexico.” First adopted a year ago, the administration has been working with Mexico to steadily expand it. The Nogales port of entry south of Tucson, Arizona, where the 18 were sent, is the site seventh to be included.

Before this policy went into effect, illegal immigrant families knew that if they crossed the border and claimed asylum, they’d effectively get a free pass. Immigration officials would release them into the U.S. within 20 days, on the promise that they would show up for their court date months in the future. Few bother to return. This policy was dubbed “Catch and Release” for a reason.

Now, they must wait in Mexico while immigration judges review their cases.

What “Remain in Mexico” revealed is how few asylum seekers have legitimate claims. In fact, judges granted asylum in less than 1% of the more than 10,000 MPP claims resolved so far, according to TRAC Research Center at Syracuse University.

The impact of this program has been little short of profound.

The number of apprehensions at the southwest border plummeted from 144,000 in May 2019 to just 42,649 in November – the last month for which the government has data. The number of border crossers apprehended with a family member went from 84,486 in May to a mere 9,000 in November.

As the El Paso Times put it, “the policy has proved to be a virtual wall.”

Indeed, before Remain in Mexico went into effect in Arizona, illegals had been flooding there because it was one of the last areas they could cross and hope to gain easy entry into the U.S.

“As news spread that migrants crossing the Arizona border weren’t being sent back to Mexico,” the Wall Street Journal said, “the Tucson border sector became the second-busiest crossing point in recent months.

“Border crossings plummeted in most other areas of the border over the same period.”

Trump has been busy implementing other policies that have strengthened the virtual border wall.

Last July, the administration issued a rule denying asylum to anyone who crossed another country before getting to the U.S. border if they didn’t seek asylum in that country first. This policy directly attacks the migrant caravans traversing Mexico. The administration has also struck deals with Central American countries that let the U.S. return asylum seekers to Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.

The administration has tightened up what counts as a “credible fear” claim for asylum seekers. At one detention facility, the number passing the credible fear claim plunged from 97% to just 10%.

Trump’s threat to impose stiff tariffs on Mexico unless it got serious about border control also made a huge difference, with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador suddenly sending troops to detain migrants.

Then there’s the fact that the Trump administration has gotten more aggressive when it comes to arrests and deportations of those in the country illegally.

A Government Accountability Office report released in December found that arrests climbed 34% from 2015 to 2018, detentions went up 35%, and removals rose 13%.

And who’s benefiting as a result of the administration’s tougher asylum policies and enforcement actions?

As we noted in this space recently, it’s been Americans who’ve gained work filling jobs that would have been taken by illegals.

Trump has been remarkably restrained about these victories. Perhaps that’s because he thinks the successes he’s having on illegal border crossings will dampen support for a border wall.

But make no mistake, the wall is an imperative, because while a Democratic president can – and would – reverse Trump’s immigration policies, he or she wouldn’t dare tear down a wall that’s already been built.

— Written by John Merline

EDITOR’S NOTE: The editorial originally referred to the number of families apprehended, but those data refer to the number of “individuals apprehended with a family member.” It has been corrected.

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The Issues and Insights Editorial Board has decades of experience in journalism, commentary and public policy.


  • . Why aren’t we hearing more about this?
    it would help America
    our democrat talking point only media cannot do that

    • have just decided, i will no longer be using the phrase ‘talking points’ in reference to the dems
      the corrected version is propaganda points

  • Phrases like “just 42, 649” show how extreme the situation was – and still is. 42, 649 is monstrous. 4, 649 would still be huge – millions of dollars in costs for all of us.
    We have millions of illegal immigrants now – we should repatriate at least 42, 649 to achieve a Net Zero balance for that November.

    • That’s a good point. But keep in mind these are apprehensions, which means — one would hope — they aren’t gaining entrance to the country.

  • If there ever is a Democrat POTUS again I am confident they will look for an excuse to tear down the wall. Most likely they will use some phony environmental excuse

  • So, it would seem that if Mexico is being forced to contain the “refugees”, they are paying for the “virtual wall”. Works for me.

    • When Trump said, Mexico will pay for the wall, Democrats assumed it meant they would write a check. However, there are many ways you can pay. Having migrants stay in Mesico is just one of those.

  • No, no he’s not winning. The population of Anchor Babies alone and the Hispanic reproduction rates will overwhelm this country… Even if the borders were shut down 100%. Trumps done nothing.

    Not one anchor baby, past, present or future should be granted citizenship. And they must all be deported – they can reproduce somewhere else.

    No action on national Voter ID.

    • The anchor baby issue will be decided by the SCOTUS after another Trump justice is confirmed. To raise the issue before then would enshrine the Democratic definition. Dont you agree that would be both foolish and disatrous? Fortunately, President Trump is not follish but instead very, very strategic. If you genuinely care about this issue you’ll focus every day on making sure hes rehired on November 3, 2020 and that Republicans keep the Senate which confirms his judicial nominees. If you want more substative change they’ll you’ll also help Republicans win back the House.

  • I’m not so sure a Dem president wouldn’t tear down an existing wall. Certainly, the American Left would cheer her or him on.

  • Great Job!!
    You are so correct in stating reporting the facts on all news (much of which is on the AP wire) and not just those whose viewpoints your news outlet agrees. There news shows and internet sources you know give you are right or left viewpoint. There are few if any that report “Just the facts, ma’am”. The nightly news shows use to do a better job of this 40-50 years ago. Lately, they seem to be driven by political agendas.

    What is more concerning to me is the growing influence of google, other search engines, and social media and their willful ability to monitor and select what information you are allowed to search for, read and censoring your speech. Funny how it all seems to be slanted to the left and far left agenda.

    Immigration policy is broken. Changes were promised when Reagan forgave immediately illegal aliens for a promise to address these issues in the near future by the Democrats. That was 30+ years and we are still waiting.

    Better border security is paramount. We need to know whose is crossing the border. Many US people do not know significant numbers from the Middle East, Far East and others cross all the time. It is not just a Central America issue. If they are crossing illegally, why? Merit based immigration makes sense, allowing any relative does not.

    Knowledge from both sides is powerful. Knowledge from only one side allows you to be manipulated by those who want to destroy Freedom of Speech.

  • The term Trump uses is “BIG LEAGUE!!!” Anybody who plays sports and especially golf KNOWS that !!! As in, that drive was “big league!!!” Geeeeeeezzzzz

  • We STILL need a wall !!!
    Also, Trump should keep up these deportations since any illegal who remains in the U.S. will
    likely try to vote illegally in the upcoming 2020 presidential election.

    And don’t forget about recruiting more Republican poll watchers so democrats can’t tamper with election ballots ( recall what happened in Florida during the 2018 midterms when Brenda Snipes suddenly and mysteriously ‘found’ extra ballots just as they were about to declare the Republican candidate the winner. They just happened to be for the democrat.

  • Wow, three years into Trumps presidency and he does something he could have done the first hour. What ever happened to rounding up the illegal aliens already illegally living in our country? Meanwhile, the idiot editorial board that produced this article is still pining for a wall, ignoring the reality that half the illegal aliens illegally living in our country did not cross the southern border but instead overstayed their visas.

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