U.S. arrests of illegal immigrants soared in the first year of president Donald Trump's administration while border crossings have plummeted, the Department of Homeland Security announced Tuesday.
But Mittelstadt also stressed that the numbers are part of a larger trend that began well before Trump's inauguration: Mexico's improving economy and more opportunities at home have stemmed the tide of people flowing across the border for work. That's about a 40 percent increase from a year ago.
The US government deported fewer illegal immigrants in 2017 than it did previous year, even as it arrested far more people suspected of being in the United States illegally, according to Department of Homeland Security statistics released on Tuesday. "The overall removals are down because the Border Patrol has reported a 45-year low in illegal border crossings".
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He also said those types of painkillers are going to make heroin and prescription opioids "look like child's play".
At a news conference, Thomas Homan, acting director of ICE, dismissed complaints from immigration advocates about the rollback of Obama administration policies that had led to a sharp drop in interior arrests. Trump has yet to get funding for the first installment of his proposed border wall with Mexico and the number of Border Patrol agents declined to less than 19,500 as the government struggle to fill vacancies continued during his presidency. No longer would they only arrest unauthorized immigrants who had committed serious crimes or had entered the country recently. But officials insisted the wall was still needed.
Ronald Vitiello, Customs and Border Protection's acting deputy commissioner, said he was "very concerned" about increases in families and children crossing in recent months.
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"We have clearly seen the successful results of the president's commitment to supporting the front line officers and agents of (the Department of Homeland Security) as they enforce the law and secure our borders", acting secretary Elaine Duke said in a statement. "We're still arresting almost 1,000 people a day coming across the border", he said.
"The administration can try to twist these numbers into whatever they please", he said. Despite the significant decline, border arrests increased every month since May - largely families and unaccompanied children. Immigration authorities caught just over half of the people who illegally entered the USA from Mexico in 2015, according to a report commissioned by the Department of Homeland Security.
On Tuesday DHS took a much harsher position on such people, suggesting they abuse United States immigration laws and pose a threat to the US.
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South of the Arizona border in the Mexican town of Nogales, numerous deportees who were eating breakfast Monday at a dining room run by a nonprofit group had been picked up in the US far from the border.