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Border patrol agent talks of big changes as illegal crossings plummet in wake of Trump election

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Before even building an actual border wall, it seems President Trump’s tough immigration stance is beginning to pay off.

The number of illegal border crossings in the Rio Grande Valley has plummeted since Trump took office, with arrests falling from 15,579 in January to just 4,143 in March, according to The Daily Mail.

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Border Patrol agents have credited Trump’s tough talk and his Executive Order on immigration for the decline, pointing to increased smuggler’s fees adding to illegal immigrants’ decisions to not risk the crossing.

“This area used to be really hot,” Marlene Castro, a supervisory Border Patrol agent, told the Los Angeles Times. “You couldn’t move. Every time you turned a corner, you’d run into group after group.”

The area between the Rio Grande and the Texas border cities of Hidalgo and McAllen was once a “hot” crossing point but the number of illegal immigrants arrested fell dramatically from about 291 a day in January to just 37 a day in March.

“Are you going to risk a 1,000-mile journey and pay $8,000 to be smuggled if you’re not sure you’ll get to stay?” Castro said. “I wouldn’t.” Castro noted that Trump’s orders do not change what agents are doing but simply enforce laws that have already been on the books.

According to the Daily Mail:

The phenomenon at the Rio Grande crossing is not isolated. Only 12,193 people were arrested across the entire Southwest border in March, 50,000 fewer than in October.

In Yuma, Arizona, only 336 were arrested trying to cross the border in March whereas 1,155 were stopped in January. El Paso, another busy crossing in Texas, saw only 976 arrested in March, a decrease of 1,803 since January.
The drop bucks a five-year trend of increases.

Since 2012, the total number of immigrants either arrested or turned away from the border has risen.The end of 2016 brought the highest number of crossings with 56,000 arrested or turned away in September alone.
October, November and December were among the busiest months in the last five years as hundreds of thousands attempted to rush in to the country before Trump took office.

Immigrants seem hesitant to risk the journey now that the president has moved forward to make good on his campaign promises.

“There’s a perception that it’s going to be very difficult for immigrants to cross into the U.S. and stay in the U.S.,” Guadalupe Correa-Cabrera, associate professor at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, told the Times. “It makes them think twice because the commitment is too big.”

A chief of the Border Patrol’s Rio Grande Valley sector would still like to see a physical barrier put in place.

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“We need the wall – or wall-and-fence combination, whatever that ends up looking like – in order to stop the people from coming over,” Manuel Padilla said. “People will say ‘Well, it doesn’t stop people.’ But it slows it down in order for us to be able to respond.”

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Frieda Powers

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