WASHINGTON (Reuters) - About 64,000 people were detained or turned back at the southwest border in August, down 22% from July and down 56% from a high mark in May, U.S. border officials said on Monday, citing greater cooperation from Mexico in cracking down on Central American migrants.
FILE PHOTO - Soldiers assigned to the National Guard keep watch near a section of the border fence between Mexico and U.S. as seen from Anapra neighborhood in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico September 5, 2019. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez
The total, still the highest for the month of August in more than a decade, was reported as a U.S. district judge dealt a setback to a new Trump administration rule that sought to block almost all asylum applications at the border.
With President Donald Trump’s hardline anti-immigration policy shaping up as an issue in his 2020 re-election campaign, Mark Morgan, the acting commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, announced the statistics at a White House briefing.
Morgan said “unprecedented support and cooperation” of Mexico helped stem the tide, and also credited Central American countries that had come to see mass migration as a regional crisis, not just a problem for the United States.
“The international outreach to the governments of Central American countries is also beginning to yield effective and positive results, particularly the efforts to stem the surge of illegal migrants crossing the southwest border and to disrupt alien smuggling operations,” Morgan said.
Washington received Mexican pledges to cooperate after threatening to impose tariffs on its southern neighbor and major trading partner.
The U.S. government has also been working more closely with Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, three Central American counties known as the Northern Triangle.
“The Northern Triangle countries, specifically, along with the government of Mexico, have really joined the United States as true partners for the first time,” Morgan said.
Earlier on Monday, a federal judge in California ruled that an injunction against a restrictive Trump rule on asylum-seekers should apply nationwide.
The rule, unveiled on July 15, requires most immigrants who want asylum in the United States to first seek asylum in a third country they had traveled through on their way.
San Francisco-based U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar had previously issued a nationwide injunction blocking the rule, but the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals narrowed it to only border states within its jurisdiction - California and Arizona - and sent the question back to Tigar.
On Monday, Tigar ruled it should apply across the entire border, pending a trial on the underlying legality of the Trump administration rule.
Reporting Alexandra Alper in Washington and Mica Rosenberg and Andrew Chung in New York; Writing by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and David Gregorio