Illegal crossings plummeted across the border after the Trump administration made more asylum-seekers wait in Mexico for hearings in U.S. courts, the Associated Press reports. The drop has been striking on the western Arizona border, a pancake-flat desert with a vast canal system from the Colorado River. Arrests in the Border Patrol’s Yuma sector nearly hit 14,000 in May, when the policy to make asylum-seekers wait in Mexico took effect there. By October, they fell 94 percent to under 800 and have stayed there since, making Yuma the second-slowest of the agency’s nine sectors on the Mexican border. Anthony Porvaznik, Yuma sector chief, said the Migration Protection Protocols have been a huge deterrent, based on agents’ interviews with people arrested.
In the neighboring Tucson sector, arrests rose from August to December, bucking a border-wide trend and making it the second-busiest corridor after Texas’ Rio Grande Valley. Porvaznik attributes Tucson’s spike to the policy’s absence there until three months ago. In late November, the administration began busing asylum-seekers five hours from Tucson to El Paso, Tx., for court and delivering them to Mexican authorities there to wait. This month, officials scrapped the buses and required migrants to travel on their own to El Paso. More than 55,000 asylum-seekers were returned to Mexico to wait for hearings through November, 10 months after the policy was introduced in San Diego. The American Civil Liberties Union and other groups asked to put the policy on hold during a legal challenge. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit heard arguments Oct. 1.