Under Trump, 40% Fewer People Have Been Caught Illegally Crossing U.S. Border

A hand reaches across the border to wave through the fence along the U.S.-Mexico border wall at Border Field State Park in San Diego on November 18, 2017. Mike Blake/Reuters

Illegal crossings at the U.S.-Mexico border dropped significantly last year with numbers from the Department of Homeland Security showing a 40 percent cut in the number of people apprehended—even without the border wall promised by the Trump administration.

The drop proves "the effectiveness of President Trump's commitment to securing our borders," said Tyler Houlton, acting press secretary for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in a statement.

In 2017, the new numbers show, the U.S. Border Patrol caught a total of 303,916 people crossing on the Southwest border, down from 408,870 in 2016 and 331,333 in 2015.

"This administration has overseen a 40 percent decrease in 2017 compared with the last year of Obama's presidency," Houlton pointed out, adding the number of detentions are "at the lowest level in 45 years."

The biggest drop was seen from October 2016—just before Trump won the election—to early April 2017. But the number has increased since then, with a sharp rise from October to December 2017.

Throughout his campaign Trump promised to build a "beautiful" wall on the border and crack down on illegal immigration. During the first year of his presidency Trump also promised to tighten legal immigration to the U.S. as well.

On Tuesday Trump insisted in a tweet that "our country needs the security of the Wall on the Southern Border" and that he wants Democrats to approve funding for it in exchange for his help to protect DACA—a program that allows young people brought illegally to the U.S. as minors to work in the U.S. legally and not be deported.

As I made very clear today, our country needs the security of the Wall on the Southern Border, which must be part of any DACA approval.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 10, 2018

The Trump administration has requested $18 billion to begin building a physical barrier on the U.S.-Mexico border as part of the total $33 billion in spending for border security it plans over the next ten years.

Read more: Trump's immigration reform has made it so the U.S. doesn't need a border wall

Yet a border spending blueprint outlined in an internal White House Office of Management and Budget document for 2019 shifts money away from a remote video surveillance system, delayes a request for more patrol boats, and cuts nearly 200 customs officials, according to The New York Times.

The money saved is planned to go to building the physical barrier, which some Republicans have criticized.

"People that are dealing with this issue know that a third-century solution to a 21st-century problem is not going to fix this long-term," Rep. Will Hurd, a Texas Republican, whose district sits on the border with Mexico, told The Times. Hurd is pushing for more high tech solutions, such as sensors along the border, to help border agents identify and target illegal crossings.

The number of Customs and Border Protection agents the administration maintained throughout its first fiscal year was also nearly 2,000 below the Congressional mandate of a minimum 21,370 agents, indicating more stretches of physical barrier is not necessarily the solution to curbing illegal crossings.

The president is expected to soon tour a series of 30-foot-tall border wall prototypes that were erected near San Diego late last year.

U.S. President Donald Trump, flanked by U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Representative Steny Hoyer (D-MD), holds a bipartisan meeting with legislators on immigration reform at the White House in Washington, U.S. January 9, 2018. Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

During a Senate hearing last year former Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly said he believed Trump's border wall would be made up of some stretches of physical barriers, but with significant stretches of "high tech fencing" and electronic monitoring.

Following bipartisan negotiations about immigration reform Tuesday between Trump and members of Congress, the president said a wall isn't needed along the entire border.

"We are doing a study of that right now, but there are large areas where you do not need a wall because you have a mountain, and you have a river, you have a violent river," Trump said, adding "you don't need it" in these areas.

Yet his tweet later in the day confirmed that he remains committed to building the 30-foot-tall barrier he envisioned during his campaign.