Even though President Donald Trump's promise to build a Mexican border wall has made no progress in Congress and his travel ban aimed at some Muslim-majority countries has been blocked by the courts, the number of illegal immigrants crossing into the United States has dropped markedly since he took office, while recent declines in the number of deportations have been reversed, The Washington Post reported on Monday.
Many experts on both sides of the immigration debate credit the change to Trump's tough rhetoric and the administration's public emphasis on enforcement raids.
"The bottom line is that they have entirely changed the narrative around immigration," said Doris Meissner, who was the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service commissioner in the Clinton administration. "It is changing the way the United States is viewed around the world, as well as the way we're talking about and reacting to immigration within the country."
Immigration attorney Leon Fresco, who served in the Obama Justice Department, told the Post that "One thing this administration has done that the Democrats' message has to recalibrate for is that it's not credible to the American people to say enforcement plays no role in [reducing] the numbers of immigrants coming illegally.
Some have tried to perpetuate a myth that it is not linked. To the extent the numbers stay low, one thing the Trump administration has been able to say that is a correct statement is that enforcement does factor into the calculus."
Federal data shows that the number of those caught by Customs and Border Patrol agents on the Mexican border dropped dramatically from more than 40,000 per month at the end of 2016 to just 12,193 in March.
Other evidence of the effectiveness so far of the clampdown is that arrests of undocumented immigrants have gone up in the first three months this year to 35,147 from 26,471 made in the same period in 2016, Time reported.
And the number of refugees entering the United States has declined from almost 10,000 last October to fewer than 2,500 in April.
Experts caution, however, that it is still too early to determine a trend, the Post reports. If tough talk is not transformed into sustainable polices then the sharp drop in illegal border crossings could be reversed, citing, for example, the experience after the 1986 amnesty, when fears of stricter enforcement at first substantially reduced the number of illegal immigrants until those crossing the border returned to the previous levels once it was clear the rhetoric on clamping down did not actually become long-term policy.
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