Trump just accidentally proved you don’t need a border wall to stop migration

Less busy these days.
Less busy these days.
Image: AP Photo/Brian Skoloff
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US Homeland Security officials on Tuesday (Dec. 5) touted their accomplishments since president Donald Trump took office: The agency has reduced the number of immigrants trying to enter into the country illegally, and increased arrests of those already in the country.

The president “is doing the right thing,” said Thomas Homan, acting director for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which is part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS.)  But the agency’s flurry of statistics proving its good work also serves as an argument against the need for Trump’s long-proposed border wall between Mexico and the US.

The number of immigrants intercepted at the US’s southern border has been falling for some time. It took a dramatic dive in the first months of the Trump presidency. The DHS notes that migration has seen a slight uptick recently largely due to children traveling alone or with their families—hardly the criminals, rapists, and bad hombres that Trump wants to stop with the wall.

Wrapped into the statistics is another reason not to build a wall. While people sneaking into the country illegally accounted for the bulk of the interceptions in fiscal 2017, about a quarter showed up at legal ports of entry and were deemed inadmissible by officials. In other words, a wall would do nothing to stop them.

The drop in intercepting immigrants at the border is making other parts of immigration enforcement look less impressive.

ICE has considerably ramped up its arrests of immigrants inland. It is sending more of those people home than in the past—more than 60,000 since Trump took office compared to nearly 45,000 in the same period the previous year. But overall removals, which include people apprehended at the border, are lower than last year because there simply haven’t been as many immigrants entering the country illegally.


Lower numbers notwithstanding, Homeland Security officials insisted on Tuesday that a border wall remains necessary. “We use walls and fences to protect things. It shouldn’t be any different on the border,” said Ronald Vitiello, acting deputy Commissioner of Customs and Border Protection.