Top U.S. Border Patrol officials say they’ve gained greater “operational control” on the Southwestern border, even as the number of arrests of undocumented immigrants has remained virtually unchanged and the death toll has broken records, reports the Arizona Republic. U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Robert Bonner said a recent decline in arrests in Arizona, where the agency has focused its efforts over the past 18 months, shows that over a six-month period, fewer migrants tried to slip across the border illegally. “We’re making progress,” Bonner said.
A look at the government’s statistics over the entire fiscal year raises questions about Bonner’s progress report. Along the 1,951-mile Southwestern border, agents have made 1.1 million arrests so far this year, a decline of 1.6 percent compared with all of last fiscal year. Bonner announced a 13 percent drop in arrests in Arizona from March 25 to Sept. 18, compared with the same time the previous year. Since the start of the fiscal year Oct. 1, the typical timeframe the agency uses to track statistics, agents made 564,591 arrests in Arizona, down 4.3 percent from last year. While Bonner asserted that a recent drop in border arrests is a sign of success, it’s difficult for the public to measure, in part because of the agency’s refusal to disclose its internal gauges of effectiveness. The only statistics provided to the media are apprehension figures, which officials have interpreted to their advantage.