The number of illegal immigrants arrested at the border fell to a record low last year, a sign President Trump’s focus on border security has deterred people from illegally entering the country.
While arrests by Border Patrol agents fell, the number of illegal immigrants arrested by deportation agents soared, according to recent statistics released by the Department of Homeland Security.
The department says the numbers underscore how Trump’s focus on national and border security is making an impact.
“We have clearly seen the successful results of the President’s commitment to supporting the frontline officers and agents of DHS as they enforce the law and secure our borders,” said Acting DHS Secretary Elaine Duke in a statement. “We have an obligation to uphold the integrity of our immigration system, but we must do more to step up and close loopholes to protect the American worker, our economy, and our communities.”
In fiscal year 2016, the U.S. Border Patrol made 415,816 arrests. This year, the number of arrests decreased to 310,531, a 25 percent drop. That’s the lowest number of arrests since 1971, according to the Border Patrol.
The border arrests decreased as arrests by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents jumped. From the beginning of the Trump administration in January through the end of September, ICE arrested 110,568 illegal immigrants, a 40 percent increase from the same time period the year before.
Convicted criminals, those facing criminal charges, fugitives and illegal immigrants who have been deported multiple times make up 92 percent of the arrests, the department says.
Overall, deportations for ICE decreased 6 percent, which they attribute to the decline in border apprehensions. Fewer arrests means there are fewer people to deport.
Immigration agents from different branches have told Fox News that immigration enforcement has improved because the Trump administration is letting them do their job, and not holding them back.
ICE Deputy Director Thomas Homan echoed that.
“These results are proof of what the men and women of ICE can accomplish when they are empowered to fulfill their mission,” Homan said.
The administration has also clamped down on violent gangs like MS-13. There was an 83 percent increase in arrests of MS-13 gang members and associates compared to the year before.
“We must continue to target violent gangs like MS-13, and prevent them from rebuilding what we have begun to dismantle,” said Homan.
While there has been success in securing the border, there is still work to be done, according to CBP officials. For instance, the number of children crossing the border, either with a family member or alone, has increased month over month since May.
“We have seen historic low numbers this year – an almost 30 percent decline in apprehensions in FY17, but we are very concerned about the later month increases of unaccompanied minors and minors with a family member,” said Acting CBP Deputy Commissioner Ronald Vitiello.
Overall, apprehensions have also increased since May. After hitting a low of 15,766 CBP arrests in April, the number of arrests has consistently increased since, hitting 31,155 in September.
Vitiello said the government also wants to go after drug traffickers bringing heroin, cocaine and opioids into the country.
“For us to truly have an operationally secure border, we must close loopholes in our laws that help fund the cartels,” Vitiello said in a statement.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.