WASHINGTON (CN) – New statistics reported Tuesday by U.S. Customs and Border Protection show that roughly 1 million migrants have been arrested at the southern border in the last year, the most in over a decade.
Acting CBP Commissioner Mark Morgan told reporters gathered at the White House on Tuesday morning that roughly 52,000 migrants were apprehended in September, both at legal ports of entry and places in between.
It marked an 18% drop in arrests from August. Compared to the peak number of illegal crossings in May – when CBP arrested more than 130,000 migrants – monthly arrests are down over 60%, Morgan said.
But all told, Morgan reported that about 975,000 arrests were made in fiscal year 2019, which ended Sept. 30. That marks an 88% increase from the year before and the highest total since 2007. The record for the highest number of border arrests is 1.6 million in 2000, according to the Department of Homeland Security.
Morgan lauded the Trump administration’s immigration policies, saying the numbers reflect an “unprecedented achievement” in the face of overwhelming surges of migrant adults, families and children that have fled Central America’s Northern Triangle in search of asylum.
He also praised the Mexican government for its cooperation with the U.S. through the Trump administration’s “remain in Mexico” policy. Enforced through Migrant Protection Protocols, or MPPs, the rule effectively forces any non-Mexican migrant who claims asylum at the southern U.S. border to stay in Mexico as their case is reviewed.
Cooperative asylum agreements are also being reached between the U.S. and El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, Morgan said.
Those agreements would allow the U.S. government to send asylum seekers at the border directly to one of those three countries. On Sept. 20, the U.S. signed an agreement with El Salvador to do exactly that but it is unclear when it will officially go into effect.
Starting this week, Morgan also said the Trump administration will start implementing restrictions on asylum claims at the southern border after the U.S. Supreme Court allowed them to take effect last month. The policy generally makes people who arrive at the southern border ineligible for asylum unless they first sought asylum in a country they passed through on their way to the United States.
Under MPPs, roughly 51,000 migrants have been returned to Mexico, some having to wait for weeks or months in cities where crime is rampant and conditions are harsh.
Morgan said this alone has served as a deterrent for those who may seek asylum without basis.
“If the claims are meritorious, they can see relief in just a few months rather than waiting in the U.S. sometimes for years,” he said Tuesday.
As the acting commissioner rattled off the arrest statistics for 2019, he was unable to provide the exact number of migrant children who remain in U.S. custody. CBP representatives did not respond to request for comment Tuesday.
As for President Donald Trump’s border wall, Morgan said that as of September, 71 miles of “new wall” have been built, though they are not considered “linear miles.” This means that where a barrier was already in place, updates and other upgrades have been made.
The administration expects to install at least 100 new linear miles by Dec. 31 and Morgan said he anticipates 450 miles will be erected by the end of 2020.
When asked who would continue to pay for the wall’s construction – the U.S. or Mexico – Morgan was dismissive.
“I don’t care who is paying for the wall, I just want the wall to be built,” he said.