A CBP truck drives along the border fence in Arizona in 2011.

A CBP truck drives along the border fence in Arizona in 2011. Customs and Border Protection file photo

Border Patrol Agents Are On Pace to Catch Nine Undocumented Immigrants Each in All of 2017

March was the month with the smallest number of apprehensions since at least 1999, but experts say it's too early to call it a trend.

In just a couple of months, US president Donald Trump has slashed the workload of border patrol agents.

March had the smallest number of border apprehensions since 1999, according to publicly available records. That’s probably fewer than at any time since the 1970s, according the Washington Office on Latin America, a human rights advocacy group.

If apprehensions continue at such a low pace for the rest of 2017, each of the 17,000 agents patrolling the US-Mexico boundary will have caught an average of nine undocumented immigrants for the year, according to a WOLA analysis released April 17. Apprehensions are the best available indicator of the number of people trying to get into the US without proper documents.

Whether the reduced flow will last, however, isn’t clear. It’s possible promises to increase border enforcement have led migrants to find more secluded areas to cross the border. Other immigrants may be postponing their trips north, not canceling them. The violence in Central America that has spurred the immigrant exodus has not let up. “As long as the violence continues unabated in the region, we can expect another uptick in children and families requesting asylum in the United States and elsewhere,” WOLA said.

While the lower figures are good news for Trump’s drive to cut illegal immigration, they bode badly for his border wall project. If a historically few number of people are trying to enter the US illegally, why build a wall? Congress won’t get support for billions of dollars for a barrier that’s not needed.