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role, but other fac­tors are also worth con­sid­er­ing. The de­cline is a sig­nif­i­cant drop com­pared with re­cent years.

On March 8, Home­land Se­cu­rity Sec­re­tary John Kelly de­scribed an “un­prec- edented” de­cline in il­le­gal south­west­ern border cross­ings from Jan­uary to Fe­bru- ary. To­tal ap­pre­hen­sions at the south­west­ern border dropped about 44 per­cent from Jan­uary (42,504) to Fe­bru­ary (23,589).

To­tal ap­pre­hen­sions in­clude U.S. Border Pa­trol ap­pre­hen­sions be­tween ports of en­try as well as peo- ple de­nied ad­mis­sion by cus- toms and border agents at ports of en­try.

Specif­i­cally, the sub­set of ap­pre­hen­sions by the Border Pa­trol along the U.S.-Mex­ico border de­creased about 40 per­cent, from 31,578 in Jan­uary to 18,762 in Fe­bru­ary.

U.S. Cus­toms and Border Pro­tec­tion his­tor­i­cally sees a 10 to 20 per­cent in­crease in ap­pre­hen­sions from Janu- ary to Fe­bru­ary, Kelly’s state­ment said. Monthly south- western border ap­pre­hen- sion data for fis­cal years 2012 to 2016 show a rise in ap­pre­hen­sions from Jan­uary to Fe­bru­ary in those years.

Ex­perts say Trump’s tough-on-im­mi­gra­tion rhetoric played an im­por­tant part in the re­duc­tion of il­le­gal bor- der cross­ings. But they also cau­tion that one month of data is not enough to make a com­plete as­sess­ment and that other fac­tors should also be con­sid­ered.

“I do think that the elec- tion of Pres­i­dent Trump is prob­a­bly the most im­por­tant fac­tor driv­ing th­ese changes. But it is still very early to have firm con­clu­sions,” said Christo­pher Wil­son, deputy di­rec­tor of the Mex­ico In­sti-

tute at the Wil­son Cen­ter. It’s likely that his rhetoric so far has had a stronger ef­fect than his poli­cies, as on-the-ground changes

and im­ple­men­ta­tion take longer, Wil­son said.

“The Trump ad­min­is­tra- tion’s rhetoric and ex­ec­u­tive or­ders have cre­ated un­cer- tainty for po­ten­tial mi­grants and in im­mi­grant com­mu­ni­ties, and new fears that im­mi­gra­tion en­force­ment will in­ten­sify both at the bor-

der and in the U.S. in­te­rior,” said Faye Hips­man, a pol­icy

an­a­lyst with the U.S. Im­mi­gra­tion Pol­icy Pro­gram at the Mi­gra­tion Pol­icy In­sti- tute, a non­par­ti­san think tank re­search­ing mi­gra­tion trends and poli­cies.

Fe­bru­ary’s ap­pre­hen­sion num­bers rep­re­sent a five- year low, Hips­man said. And the coun­try hasn’t seen a 40 per­cent de­cline in ap­pre­hen- sions in the past five years. Monthly ap­pre­hen­sions in fis­cal year 2011 “were reg­u­larly on par with this Fe­bru­ary’s fig­ures,” she said.

“The f ac­tors driv­ing to­day’s border crossers — who are now ma­jor­ity Cen­tral Amer­i­can — are un­changed,” Hips­man noted. “Vi­o­lence and in­se­cu­rity still grip the re­gion, poverty has not im­proved, and there are still tens of thou­sands of fam­i­lies liv­ing apart with some mem­bers in the U.S. and oth- ers in Cen­tral Amer­ica with de­sires to re­unify.”

And while ap­pre­hen­sion data are gen­er­ally used to mea­sure il­le­gal border cross- ings, past ad­min­is­tra­tions have used both high and low ap­pre­hen­sion num­bers as an in­di­ca­tor of strong border en­force­ment, said Don­ald Ker­win, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Cen­ter for Mi­gra­tion Stud­ies, a think tank study

ing in­ter­na­tional mi­gra­tion and a mem­ber of a global

net­work of mi­grant shel­ters and ser­vice cen­ters.

“That met­ric can cut both ways,” Ker­win said.

Our rul­ing

Trump said, “In the first full month of my ad­min­is­tra- tion fol­low­ing the is­suance of my ex­ec­u­tive or­ders, il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion on our south- ern border fell by an un­prece­dented 40 per­cent.”

Trump’s state­ment is accu- rate but needs ad­di­tional in­for­ma­tion, such as the con­text that it’s one month of data and that ap­pre­hen­sion data can be used in sev­eral ways. We rate it Mostly True.

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