WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas

(AP Photo/Moises Castillo)

23 Oct 2018 | Press Release

Latest Arrest Statistics Show that Harsh Treatment of Migrants is Not Reducing Immigration at the Border

Washington, DC—On October 23, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) released its monthly statistics on migrant apprehension totals along the U.S.-Mexico border, covering September 2018. The new numbers show a 22.5 percent increase compared to August in terms of the number of families and children apprehended at the border. According to the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), a leading research and advocacy organization, these latest statistics add to the mounting evidence the Trump administration’s threats and cruel treatment of migrant families isn’t stopping them from fleeing one of the world’s most violent regions.

“Despite all the evidence that screams ‘this is not working,’ the Trump administration still thinks it can discourage asylum seekers with shameful practices like family separation and detention,” said Adam Isacson, Director for Defense Oversight at the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA). “The Trump administration needs to abandon these cruel deterrence policies and work with Central American countries to address the violence, instability, and weak governance driving people to migrate.”

The increased number of arrests at the border comes as the U.S. government is reportedly considering a new policy that would force asylum-seeking parents to choose between three options: get deported with their children back to their country of origin, remain in detention indefinitely with their child as their asylum case makes its way through the U.S. courts, or agree to separation and have the government place the child in a shelter while the parent remains in detention. Family detention beyond 20 days or detaining parents while releasing their children go against the standards for child detention set forth in the Flores settlement and recent court decisions.

“Instead of working to establish a legal, orderly immigration process, the Trump administration is set on devising new ways to create chaos, split up more families, and traumatize this vulnerable population, including children,” said Isacson.

The total number of migrants apprehended at the border in September was 50,568, meaning that overall, migration at the U.S.-Mexico border remains at historically low levels. What has changed is the profile of who is coming: families and children, instead of single male adults (so far this year, 2018 has seen the lowest number of single male adults apprehended at the border since 1970). Within the total number of apprehensions registered in September, about 41.5 percent were children or family members, a trend which has remained consistent since 2014. This further indicates that the pace of family and child migration is not slowing down, despite the Trump administration’s attempts at a policy of deterrence. As CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan experienced on his recent trip to Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, there are multiple factors at play in a person’s decision to migrate, including poverty and lack of opportunities as well as widespread violence and weak government institutions.

“Many families are fleeing critical levels of violence, corruption, and instability in Central America. Rather than respect their right to seek asylum, the Trump administration wants to force these families to make an impossible choice between being separated from their child, getting deported back to one of the world’s most violent regions, or staying locked up in conditions that are seriously harmful to children’s welfare,” said Isacson.

See more of WOLA’s resources on border and migration here:

  • A three-part series of reports looking at the impact of the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy: part one looks at how “zero tolerance” failed to deter undocumented migration; part two examines the Trump administration’s unwillingness to process asylum seekers at the official ports of entry along the U.S.-Mexico border; and part three documents the incompetence and disregard for human rights that characterized the implementation of “zero tolerance.”
  • Fact sheets on myths about migration; why Central American families are fleeing their homes; and the U.S. asylum process.
  • A 2016 report documents the inhumane practice of locking up migrant families along the border.
  • In a 2015 report, WOLA highlighted multiple concerns about the conditions and
    treatment within family detention centers.