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Border Patrol Apprehensions Are Declining, But Immigration Officials Say Crisis Isn't Over

Across the 500-mile stretch of Custom and Border Protection’s Big Bend Sector, 9,637 migrants — families, single adults and children — were either apprehended by or surrendered to immigration officials in the budget year that ended Sept. 30, according to government data released Tuesday

The figure is a modern high for the rural outpost but also reflects the fewest number of migrants of any of the state’s five sectors for the year. 

Across the entire southwest border, the total number reached 977,509 — which is the highest total since 2007 and reflects an 88% increase over fiscal year 2018. 

“These are numbers that no immigration system in the world can handle, not even in this country,” CBP’s Acting Commissioner Mark Morgan said during a press conference in El Paso. 

In May, the number of migrants at the southern border — mainly families from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador —reached modern highs. At that time, the Big Bend Sector also began seeing a sharp increase in the number of migrants. The Presidio Station saw the sector’s largest increase in apprehensions, breaking daily, weekly and monthly records

Since then monthly apprehension numbers have largely been on the decline. 

During his press conference with reporters, Morgan credited several Trump Administration efforts for the steady drop, including Migrant Protection Protocols. The policy, also referred to as Remain in Mexico, requires asylum-seeking migrants to wait out their immigration hearings in Mexico. This year, the government says more than 50,000 migrants have been sent to Mexico through the program to wait for their asylum hearings. 

The controversial program first rolled out earlier this year in California and soon expanded to major border cities in Texas such as El Paso, Laredo, Brownsville and, just recently, Presidio and Eagle Pass

Critics of MPP say it forces already vulnerable migrants to wait in Mexican cities where they face extortion, kidnapping and harassment.

The Trump administration has also cited metering as an effective practice. The policy limits the daily number of migrants who can approach ports of entry to claim asylum.

Despite the drop from the high in May, Morgan told reporters Tuesday the humanitarian crisis at the border continues. 

“Although we made dramatic strides, significant progress...we’re still getting way too many apprehensions per day,” Morgan said, surrounded by Border Patrol agents. “It’s still a crisis.” 

Carlos Morales is Marfa Public Radio's News Director.