Border Apprehensions Down Again in April

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Another month, another drop in illegal immigration. The conservative Washington Times is crowing about it:

Illegal immigration across southwest border down 70 percent under Trump

Illegal immigration across the southwest border dropped yet again in April, with the number of illegal immigrant children fallen below 1,000 for the first time in recent records, Homeland Security announced Tuesday. The numbers are part of a stunning drop since the beginning of the Trump administration. Border Patrol apprehensions alone are down a shocking 70 percent compared to last year under President Obama.

….Authorities attributed the continued drop to the administration’s changes in border enforcement policies. “A lot of the discussion about changes in our enforcement policy and the way we are going about doing business, we believe that has deterred people,” said Department of Homeland Security spokesman David Lapan in a briefing at Immigration and Customs Enforcement headquarters Tuesday.

Is this really a Trump effect? I don’t have much of a dog in this fight, since I think it might well be. Trump’s brand of bluster and fear isn’t very effective in most circumstances, but it’s certainly possible that it is here. A loud president combined with some loud raids could easily scare off folks from trying to cross the border.

But you can judge for yourself. Here are total Southwest border apprehensions since 2008. Since this stuff is extremely seasonal, I’ve drawn three lines for apprehensions in January, February, and March:

On the one hand, border apprehensions are down sharply compared to 2016 in all three months. On the other hand, this has happened before: in 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2015. The number just announced for April is below the April trendline (dotted line), but only a little.

If I had to guess, I’d say the Trump effect is small but real. There would have been some reversion to the mean regardless, but the drop under Trump seems to be a little steeper than we might otherwise expect. The real question is how long it lasts. I imagine that border crossers are accustomed to periodic crackdowns, and willing to wait them out. The question is whether Trump’s bluster gets backed up with anything more.

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