The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion How Southwest border apprehensions this year compare with those in earlier years

A fence on the border between the United States and Mexico near Tornillo, Tex. (Larry W. Smith/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

My column Friday noted that President Trump’s narrative about the border crisis — that we’ve been suffering a sudden “infestation” of undocumented immigrants sneaking into the country from Mexico — is largely a myth. Last fiscal year we had the fewest border apprehensions along the Southwest border since 1971. And while apprehensions have picked up in the past several months, year to date, we’re still well below the historical average.

Several readers wrote me asking about those trends. Trump reportedly attacked his Homeland Security secretary, after all, because of a recent surge in illegal border crossings. How much have they actually gone up?

Follow Catherine Rampell's opinionsFollow

Let’s look at the historical context. The graph below charts data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection for fiscal years 2000-2017 and thus far in fiscal 2018, showing what the agency refers to as “Total Illegal Alien Apprehensions” along the Southwest border each month.

The chart shows data from October (first month of the federal fiscal year) through May (most recent month for which we have fiscal 2018 data).

The orange line is for fiscal 2017, which as you can see had an unusually low number of border apprehensions, particularly in the months following Trump’s inauguration.

What about fiscal 2018? That’s the red line. The numbers have picked up since the start of the fiscal 2018, but they’re still lower than comparable months in most earlier years.