Reality Check: Illegal immigration has plummeted

Story highlights

  • Illegal immigration across the US-Mexico border has fallen dramatically in recent years
  • Whether the current situation on the southern border represents a crisis is in the eye of the beholder

Washington (CNN)"A nation without borders is not a nation," President Donald Trump said Wednesday in signing an executive action to start the process of building a wall along the southern border. "Beginning today, the United States of America gets back control of its borders, gets back its borders."

So how bad is the situation on the southern border? Much better than it has been. In a very long time.
Illegal immigration across the US-Mexico border has fallen dramatically in recent years. According to the US Customs and Border Protection agency, 415,816 people were caught trying enter the country illegally in the fiscal year that ended last September.
Of those, 408,870 were caught trying to cross into the US from Mexico. That national figure is less than half the 1.1 million people caught on average annually between 1980 and 2008. According to the Border Patrol, "apprehensions are an indicator of total attempts to cross the border illegally."
The number of Mexicans who were apprehended trying to cross the border illegally in fiscal 2015 were near a 50-year low, according to a study by the Pew Research Center.
The falloff in illegal immigration from Mexico is so great that, according to Pew, in recent years, more Mexicans have returned to their country of origin than have tried to come here. The Border Patrol also notes that "far fewer Mexican nationals and single adults are attempting to cross the border without authorization, while far more families and unaccompanied children are fleeing poverty and violence in Central America."
What is different is that "a growing share" of these Central American migrants are surrendering to law enforcement "to seek humanitarian protection" rather than trying to sneak into the US undetected.
Whether the current situation on the southern border represents a crisis is in the eye of the beholder.
But to describe a country where illegal border crossings and apprehensions have dropped dramatically in recent years as a country with no borders is misleading.