Arrests at Mexican border fall to 17-year low. Is it the Trump effect?

Arrests at Mexican border fall to 17-year low. Is it the Trump effect?
In this June 22, 2016 photo, Border Patrol agents stands near a border structure in San Diego.

Reports on Tuesday of a sharp drop in immigration arrests at the U.S.-Mexico border — to the lowest level in more than 17 years — added to the intense debate over border security as President Donald Trump moves forward with his plan to build a wall between the two countries.

The dramatic drop in arrests — from 58,000 in February to 12,500 in March — was brought to light in prepared remarks Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly is set to give to a Senate committee on Wednesday. The Associated Press obtained a copy of Kelly’s testimony and reported it Tuesday.

The dramatic decline in arrests was “no accident,” Kelly reportedly says in the testimony, which credits Trump’s tough approach to immigration enforcement.

Missing in Tuesday’s Associated Press report was any suggestion that other factors might be involved in the decline in arrests, such as inclement weather.

But the story nevertheless offered fodder to the conversation about immigration, border protection and a U.S.-Mexico relationship hanging in the balance.

Some praised Trump in their tweets reacting to the story. Others were more skeptical and pointed to past trends. And yet other people framed the report as a reason to ask the big question: Do we still need a border wall?

The timing of the report was also noteworthy given that Tuesday was the deadline for builders to submit their blueprint proposals for the U.S.-Mexico border wall. Some 450 companies submitted bids to build a wall along the nearly 2,000-mile stretch of the border, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported.

The drop in arrests at the border also coincides with a trend that shows a steady drop of immigration from Mexico on the Southwest border, from more than 1.6 million in the year 2000 to just over 400,000 in 2016. If the immigration declines continue, arrests may reach a new record by the end of 2017.

Is Trump what’s driving down those numbers? Are there other factors that could have helped produce the drop in arrests?

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Twitter: @RunGomez