The Trump administration is decreasing the number of illegal immigrants in the country, deporting more than are entering, according to a top from the Department of Homeland Security.
“I think we’ve probably reached a point in the last few months where we’re deporting more illegals than are coming into the country,” Ken Cuccinelli, acting DHS deputy secretary, said during a Heritage Foundation webinar Wednesday.
The number of migrants apprehended by Border Patrol between border crossings dropped from 30,000 on the U.S.-Mexico border in March to half that figure in April amid the coronavirus pandemic. This suggests fewer people are seeking to cross. Customs and Border Protection, the DHS agency that manages operations at the country’s land, air, and sea borders, has not released its May figures yet.
In March, the Trump administration said the CBP would begin to “expel” all illegal crossers at the border immediately, including asylum seekers. The move meant immigrants would not be held in CBP custody for several days before being turned over to longer-term immigration detention centers operated by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Trump officials said it would slow the spread of the virus among people in detention, while immigrant advocates said the move denied due process to migrants.
It’s not clear if those expelled to home countries by CBP and ICE are being counted as the deportations Cuccinelli referred to, though the two are legally different processes. Under guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that recommended closing nonessential travel at the country’s land borders, returns are not to be counted as “deportations.” Neither CBP nor ICE has disclosed the number of immigrants deported in recent months.
ICE facilities can hold more than 50,000 detainees, but since late February, when the first coronavirus cases emerged in the United States, its facilities have seen fewer new arrivals, resulting in a drop in the detained population from 38,000 to under 25,000.
DHS and CBP did not immediately respond to requests for comment.