AMU Homeland Security Immigration Legislation

The History Of U.S. Border Apprehensions

President Trump addressed the nation Tuesday night about what he calls, “a growing humanitarian and security crisis” at the southern border. As the government shutdown persists, here’s what we know about migration into the United States and what’s happening at the U.S.- Mexico border.

Figures released by the Department of Homeland Security show nationwide apprehensions of migrants entering the country without authorization are at some of their lowest numbers in decades. The U.S. Border Patrol states on its website that these numbers do not include individuals met at ports of entry looking to enter legally, but are determined to be inadmissible, or individuals seeking humanitarian protection under U.S. law.

U.S. Border Patrol took just over 400,000 people illegally entering the United States into custody in 2018, down from the second-high of 1.67 million in 2000.

The Washington Post Fact Checker Salvador Rizzo reported that most of these declines have come, “partly because of technology upgrades; tougher penalties in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks; a decline in migration rates from Mexico; and a sharp increase in the number of Border Patrol officers.”

Despite Trump’s repeated claim that terrorists are entering through the southern border, the State Department reported that at the end of 2017, “there was no credible evidence indicating that international terrorist groups have established bases in Mexico, worked with Mexican drug cartels, or sent operatives via Mexico into the United States,” and noted, “The U.S. southern border remains vulnerable to potential terrorist transit, although terrorist groups likely seek other means of trying to enter the United States.”

Speaking with NPR in 2017, Tom Homan, acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said, “Overall, removals are down because the border’s under better control than it has been in 45 years.”

Apprehensions of unaccompanied minors at the border from El Salvador, Honduras and Mexico began to decline in 2016 and 2017 from previous highs in 2014, according to Border Patrol statistics. Guatemala, however, has seen a large increase in apprehensions of minors of the border, reaching a high of just over 22,000 in 2018, the largest of any country within the past five years.

The rise of violence in some Central American countries has caused migrants and asylum seekers to head to the United States. According to a U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees report from 2015, “increasing violence in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras has led to a fivefold increase in pending asylum cases — now 109,800 — in Mexico and the United States since 2012.”

Detainments along the U.S.-Mexico border saw an overall decline of 81.5 percent from 2000 to 2017. The border fence near the Rio Grande Valley is the only border crossing that has seen an increase in apprehensions within that same time frame.

But, in December, U.S. border agents detained 60,782 migrants, many with children, attempting to enter the United States without authorization, according to statistics obtained by The Post. December marked the third consecutive month border agents detained more than 60,000 migrants.

The recent surge in migrants has led to crowded and unhealthy conditions as holding cells became crowded, unhealthy and filled with youths. Two Guatemalan children died after being taken into custody, prompting officials at the Department of Homeland Security to declare a “humanitarian and national security crisis.”

About this story

All figures are from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection. All data is reported in fiscal years. The 2018 data includes numbers from fiscal 2019, which includes October through December 2018. In the nationwide chart, 2018 figure includes all nationwide apprehensions from October 2017 through Aug. 31, 2018, plus southwest border apprehensions from September 2018.


This article was written by Laris Karklis, Brittany Renee Mayes and Aaron Williams from The Washington Post and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to

Comments are closed.