U.S.-Mexico Border Apprehensions in July Up 70% Over 2017 Levels

(Bloomberg) -- U.S. Border Patrol apprehensions at the Southwest border rose more than 70 percent in July from a year ago, showing that illegal immigration has continued to grow despite President Donald Trump’s efforts to stop it.

Agents apprehended 31,303 people in July between ports of entry, up from 18,187 a year ago, according to Department of Homeland Security data released Wednesday. The department said substantial rises in the number of unaccompanied children and family units crossing the U.S.-Mexico border drove the overall increase.

Apprehensions at the border have returned to levels comparable to the final year of the Barack Obama administration, after a dramatic drop during Trump’s first year in office, according to the data.

DHS highlighted that border apprehensions were lower than they were in the four previous months, after peaking in May at 40,333.

“Despite our terribly broken immigration laws, the administration has still been able to impact illegal immigration - but we need Congress to act to fix our system," DHS spokesman Tyler Q. Houlton said in a statement. He referred to the "zero tolerance" policy implemented by the Trump administration earlier this year, which aims to prosecute every adult who crosses into the country illegally.

There were 3,938 unaccompanied children apprehended in July, up from 2,475 a year ago, the Border Patrol said, and 9,258 families apprehended, up from 3,389 last July.

In May and June, the family division policy led the government to separate 2,500 children from their parents so that the adults could be prosecuted while in Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody. Under a court decision known as the Flores agreement, children can be held in ICE custody for no more than 20 days.

Amid a public outcry over family separations, Trump ended the practice with an executive order signed on June 18. A week later, U.S. District Court Judge Dana Sabraw in San Diego ordered the reunification of the separated families by the end of July. As of August 1, the government had reunified 1,535 children of those with their parents and discharged 444 children in other circumstances. But 572 children remained in custody, according to court documents.

Houlton said the Flores agreement and Sabraw’s rulings are complicating the government’s efforts to manage the rising numbers of families entering the country.

"Court decisions prevent us from detaining and prosecuting family unit adults," he said. "The inability to apply consequences to any law breaker ultimately threatens the safety and security of the nation and its communities."

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