Jan 14, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Trump doesn't need a border wall

Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump has successfully built an immigration wall that has proven impenetrable for tens of thousands of migrants — it's just not the physical one he and others obsess about.

What's happening: The number of attempted border crossings is falling, and denial rates are climbing. The very nations most migrants flee from are now the nations where asylum seekers are being sent.

The big picture: Over the last few months, the Trump administration has begun implementing its asylum agreements with Central American nations, which could help keep asylum seekers out of the U.S.

  • They're sending Hondurans to Guatemala — the origin nation for the highest number of migrants who reached the U.S. border last year.
  • Officials could begin kicking Mexican, Central American and South American asylum seekers to Honduras or El Salvador as well — even if they are not from there — once the details of those agreements are worked out and put in motion.
  • The final details of the Honduras agreement will be implemented soon, DHS acting secretary Chad Wolf said last Thursday. The Honduran Foreign Relations minister has said the country agreed to accept migrants from Mexico, Brazil, Nicaragua, Guatemala and El Salvador, La Prensa reports.
  • The administration planned to begin removing Mexican asylum seekers to Guatemala, although the plan is temporarily on hold after broad backlash, according to Buzzfeed's Hamed Aleaziz.
  • More than 50,000 Central American asylum seekers have already been forced to wait out their legal cases in Mexico under the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) — "Remain in Mexico." The program is expected to expand.

Between the lines: Even the thousands who have waited out their time in Mexico for a chance at asylum face steep odds of ever gaining legal passage into the U.S.

The bottom line: The number of people crossing the border fell for the seventh straight month in December — the first time that number of border crossings has fallen from November to December since 2012, according to new Customs and Border Protection (CBP) data.

  • Last month, just 40,620 migrants were arrested or turned away at the southern border — down from a peak of 144,116 in May of last year.
  • What to watch: Federal courts could still send Trump's wall of policies and programs tumbling, which some experts and officials fear could lead to another surge at the border in 2020.

What's next: Trump continues his slow campaign for a physical wall. The WashPost reports that he's "preparing to divert an additional $7.2 billion in [2020] Pentagon funding for border wall construction this year, five times what Congress authorized."

Go deeper

Illegal border crossings continue to fall as U.S. enforces asylum agreements

A Honduran migrant climbs on the U.S.-Mexico border fence near Tijuana in 2018. Photo: Guillermo Arias/AFP via Getty Images

The number of attempted illegal crossings at the U.S.-Mexico border fell for the eighth straight month in January to 36,679, Customs and Border Protection Acting Commissioner Mark Morgan said in a press briefing on Tuesday.

Why it matters: Last year’s border crisis largely consisted of Central American families and children attempting to reach the U.S., but over the last few months, the Trump administration has begun implementing asylum agreements with those nations. That has allowed immigration officials to deport asylum seekers to Central American countries that are not their home.

ACLU sues Trump administration over Central America asylum agreements

Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Image

The ACLU and other advocacy groups filed a lawsuit Wednesday challenging the Trump administration's asylum agreements that allow Honduran and Salvadoran asylum seekers to be sent to Guatemala.

Why it matters: The "safe third country" agreements with Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador would keep more asylum seekers out of the U.S., but critics say the program doesn't inform migrants of their other options and sends them to countries that can't offer security. Only the Guatemala agreement is in effect so far.

Go deeperArrowJan 15, 2020

Mexico blocks thousands of migrants seeking path to U.S. from entry

Central American migrants headed to the US remain at the international bridge that connects Tecum Uman, Guatemala, with Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico, on January 20, 2020. Photo: JOHAN ORDONEZ/AFP via Getty Images.

Three thousand Central-American migrants on their way to the United States were again blocked from entering Mexico on Monday, AP reports.

Driving the news: Mexican troops had scuffled with and locked out hundreds of migrants from entry to Mexico on Saturday. Mexico's increased efforts to block migration north are boosted by President Trump's threat of sanctions if further groups reach the U.S.

Go deeperArrowJan 20, 2020