After reaching record highs at the end of last year, the number of families claiming asylum on the southern border has slowed to a trickle, reports the San Antonio Express News.
January and February are generally slow times for illegal immigration, but lawyers and activists who work with the families held at two South Texas detention centers said the slowdown cannot be attributed to seasonal trends.
Earlier this year, immigration officials shut down two emergency processing centers, one in South Texas and one near El Paso, that they had opened in December to handle an influx of families.
On Monday, only 194 people were in the 830-bed family detention center in Karnes County, and 439 in the 2,400-bed facility in Dilley, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The agency said it is holding so few people because “fewer apprehensions are being made along the southern border.”
The numbers are a big drop from December, when so many families were crossing into the U.S. from Mexico, mostly in South Texas, that ICE released hundreds of people from the Karnes City and Dilley centers in San Antonio, without bus or plane tickets, to create bed space.
Officials in the Mexican border city of Reynosa said they have seen a drastic decrease in the number of accompanied children at a government-run shelter there. Mexico’s family welfare agency in November housed 168 minors, including 124 non Mexicans, at its Reynosa shelter. But by February the number of minors had dropped to just 45, with only 13 from countries other than Mexico.
The decrease in apprehensions at the border comes as President Donald Trump and his cabinet members have directed immigration officials to expand detention space and be more skeptical of asylum seekers. And Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly has said he’ll consider separating children from their parents at the border.
The reasons for the decrease of asylum-seeking families remain a source of speculation, and it’s not clear if the total number of people trying to cross the border illegally has slowed as significantly. Trump’s tough talk on immigration is one of the reasons activists have suggested is stemming the flow of families crossing the border.