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A girl peers out from an encampment at the U.S.-Mexico border, where she and several hundred people waited to present themselves to immigration officials to request asylum. / Photo by David Maung

The Trump administration has been trying to prosecute all illegal border crossings since April. As a sign that its zero-tolerance policy has worked, the Department of Homeland Security last week touted a drop in border apprehensions, which is a commonly used proxy for how many people are trying to cross into the United States illegally.

The number of border apprehensions declined only slightly — from 34,095 in June to 31,303 in July. That’s an 8 percent drop, which is fairly consistent with drops seen in past years during the hot summer months. The decline in families fell by even less, from 9,434 in June to 9,258 in July, despite the Trump administration’s policy of separating families and evidence suggesting that parents are being disproportionately targeted for criminal prosecution.

There was, however, a significant drop among people who legally turn themselves in at ports of entry in search of asylum.

In April, prior to the announcement of zero tolerance, 12,643 people presented themselves at ports of entry without authorization to enter the country. In July, that number dropped to 8,650. Customs and Border Protection refers to these individuals as “inadmissibles,” and does not distinguish which have asked for asylum.

In California, though, where apprehensions account for a relatively small number of total arrests along the border, the trend has been different. While overall, the numbers declined this past month across the country, they’ve gone up here, particularly for unaccompanied minors and families.

The El Centro Border Patrol Sector in Imperial County reached a six-year high in apprehensions, the Desert Sun reports. The chief agent of the El Centro sector attributed the increase in minors and families to perceptions that Mexicali is “a relatively safe city,” he told the paper.

For minors, apprehensions in El Centro increased 96 percent compared with this time last year; for families, that figure is up 58 percent.

The San Diego Sector’s apprehensions also increased, though only slightly — by about 84 arrests. But the numbers of family apprehensions have been steadily increasing in the San Diego sector since zero tolerance began.

In April, there were 291 apprehensions of family units in San Diego. In July that number climbed to 508, a nearly 43 percent increase. Unaccompanied minor apprehensions increased by about 28.5 percent in the same period.

Arrest of minors crossing illegally in San Diego has increased by 58 percent since last year. That’s far higher than the 17 percent increase of apprehensions of minors across the entire U.S.-Mexico border.

Last year saw an usually low number of apprehensions compared with previous years, but San Diego and El Centro didn’t see declines in families or minors apprehended at the border.

El Centro, for instance, saw an increase of 11 percent for minors between fiscal years 2016 and 2017, and a 13 percent increase in families. San Diego saw no change in minors between 2016 and 2017, but a 3 percent increase in families.

When it comes to those presenting themselves at ports of entry, San Diego has seen a decline — consistent with the entire Southwest border. Those numbers stayed level in July, with only about 61 additional inadmissibles from the month of June.

The number of minors and families presenting themselves at San Diego’s port of entry in San Ysidro has increased since last year, 34 percent for minors and a whopping 140 percent increase for families — the largest increase of any field office.

  • Rodney Scott, the chief patrol agent for the San Diego sector of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, says the thing that’s changed most for his agents with zero tolerance is the paperwork. Scott also said he hasn’t seen any proof that Border Patrol agents are turning away asylum-seekers, though the reporter who interview him noted she saw them being turned away herself. (KQED)

Increasingly Large Fentanyl Loads Coming Across the Border

The U.S. attorney’s office in San Diego charged 38-year-old Fernando Jesus Peraza with importing more than 20,000 fentanyl pills. Peraza, a U.S. citizen living in Tijuana, was arrested Thursday after officers at the San Ysidro Port of Entry found four packages of pills concealed in the passenger side rear quarter panel of his vehicle.

The pills tested positive for fentanyl but were designed to look like oxycodone. It appears to be the largest fentanyl seizure in pill-form ever made along the Southwest border.

This seizure came roughly a week after a 19-year old U.S. citizen living in Tijuana was caught trying to smuggle 11,490 fentanyl pills (also made to look like oxycodone), 61 pounds of methamphetamine and 14 pounds of heroin inside a vehicle.

  • A 20-year old Tijuana college student was sentenced to 87 months in custody for smuggling approximately 77 pounds of fentanyl. The seizure, made in December 2017 at the San Ysidro Port of Entry, was also one of the largest seizures of the deadly opioid along the Southwest border at the time, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.

Tijuana’s Violence Reaches Record Levels in July

July was the most violent month ever in Tijuana, with 245 recorded murders, reports Frontera.

The violence in Tijuana has been mostly confined to the city’s impoverished and working-class neighborhoods. In July, though, there have been shootouts and murders in some of the city’s upper and upper-middle class areas, like Playas de Tijuana and the mall, Plaza Galerías Hipódromo.

One morning at the end of July, there was also a body hanging from a bridge over Boulevard 2000 freeway — something that hasn’t happened in Tijuana in years, writes Zeta.

The Latest on Family Reunification

Documents filed before a status hearing in the family reunification case taking place before U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw in San Diego show that 559 children between the ages of 5 and 17 still need to be reunited with their families.

Of the 365 children with parents who are outside of the United States, the Office for Refugee Resettlement — the government agency in charge of the separated children – has contact information for 360 of them and was actively in contact with 299 of them last week, reports NPR.

More than 140 children are ineligible for reunification because of “red flag” warnings on parents — meaning at least one parent has some sort of criminal record.

More Border News

Maya Srikrishnan

Maya was Voice of San Diego’s Associate Editor of Civic Education. She reported on marginalized communities in San Diego and oversees Voice’s explanatory...

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