Washington, DC — Data released by U.S. Customs and Border Protection on December 5 showed that the past fiscal year saw the lowest number of migrants apprehended along the U.S.-Mexico border since 1971. The agency reported apprehending 303,916 individuals between ports of entry along the southwest border during FY2017 (October 1, 2016 to September 30, 2017). Of those apprehended, 39 percent were either families or unaccompanied children, statistics show. Some 53.5 percent of those apprehended along the U.S.-Mexico border were from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, with another 42 percent from Mexico. The 127,938 Mexican nationals apprehended was the smallest annual total since at least 1969.
Based on these apprehension numbers and the current number of active Border Patrol agents, the average Border Patrol agent captured just 18 migrants during FY2017, or one every 20 days. Despite migration levels hitting a 46-year low, the Senate is currently debating spending $100 million to hire 500 new Border Patrol agents next year, who would be stationed along the U.S.-Mexico border. The 500 agents would be a downpayment on 5,000 additional Border Patrol hires requested by the White House. (Border Patrol currently has just under 20,000 agents.) These apprehension statistics suggest that, in contrast to Trump administration rhetoric emphasizing the urgent need for a “massive” border security buildup, proposals such as the Border Patrol expansion and the White House’s $1.6 billion request for a border wall are unnecessary and wasteful, according to the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), a leading research and advocacy group that has carried out extensive field work along the U.S.-Mexico border.
“These numbers show that Border Patrol agents are stopping, on average, one or two people per month along the U.S.-Mexico border. Where’s the urgent need to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on further expanding this agency? If Congress approves the wall-building and agent-hiring in the 2018 Homeland Security Bill, they’re wasting taxpayer money without actually addressing very real challenges that do need attention along the U.S.-Mexico border,” said WOLA Director for Defense Oversight Adam Isacson.
Read WOLA’s arguments for a common-sense border security policy — one that does not involve an across-the-board increase in Border Patrol staffing — in an op-ed published by The Hill.