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Trump’s Immigration Crackdown Might Turn Out to be Nearly as Good as Building a Wall

The number of immigrants illegally crossing into the US has already dropped.

President Donald Trump has promised to bulk up his country’s border defenses by building a wall and adding thousands of new border patrol agents, but he might not need to: The number of immigrants illegally entering the US appears to have dropped dramatically during his first month in office.

Border apprehensions, a proxy metric for illegal immigration flows, dropped by nearly 45% from January to February. They’re down about 40% from Feb. 2016.

Apprehensions count the people US Customs and Border Patrol call “inadmissibles,” or immigrants who were turned back at official ports of entry. In October, the month before Trump was elected, apprehensions jumped by 20%. They started declining in November, and the harshness of US immigration policy since he took office seems to be deterring even bigger numbers of migrants.

Trump has launched a series of raids that target unauthorized immigrants using much broader criteria than his predecessor. While former president Barack Obama focused on unauthorized immigrants with a criminal record, under Trump’s new guidelines virtually anyone living in the country illegally is a priority for deportation. The stricter deportation rules don’t stop immigrants at the border directly, but some believe they make immigrants think twice about coming to the US in the first place.

Homeland Security chief John Kelly seemed to attribute the drop in apprehensions to Trump’s tougher approach. “The early results show that enforcement matters, deterrence matters,” he said in a statement.

We’ll have to wait a few more months to determine the strength and longevity of the Trump effect.