border rhetoric meets reality orig alee_00003304.jpg
border rhetoric meets reality orig alee_00003304.jpg
Now playing
01:34
Where border rhetoric meets reality
President Donald Trump addresses the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly, at U.N. headquarters, Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2018. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
Richard Drew/AP
President Donald Trump addresses the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly, at U.N. headquarters, Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2018. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
Now playing
01:17
Trump to migrants: Make your nations great again
Central American immigrants depart ICE custody, pending future immigration court hearings on June 11, 2018 in McAllen, Texas. Thousands of undocumented immigrants continue to cross into the U.S., despite the Trump administration's recent "zero tolerance" approach to immigration policy.  (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
John Moore/Getty Images
Central American immigrants depart ICE custody, pending future immigration court hearings on June 11, 2018 in McAllen, Texas. Thousands of undocumented immigrants continue to cross into the U.S., despite the Trump administration's recent "zero tolerance" approach to immigration policy. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:06
Judge blocks asylum seekers from deportation
Pool
Now playing
01:51
Trump: I prefer shutdown before midterms
CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 29:  Demonstrators hold a rally in the Little village neighborhood calling for the elimination of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and an end to family detentions on June 29, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. Protests have erupted around the country recently as people voice outrage over the separation and detention of undocumented children and their parents.  (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Scott Olson/Getty Images North America/Getty Images
CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 29: Demonstrators hold a rally in the Little village neighborhood calling for the elimination of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and an end to family detentions on June 29, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. Protests have erupted around the country recently as people voice outrage over the separation and detention of undocumented children and their parents. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:30
HHS refusing to release family separation stats
Now playing
01:01
Reporter to Sarah Sanders: Why did Trump lie?
Now playing
01:28
Trump: ICE agents are mean but have heart
Pool
Now playing
01:23
Trump: Our facilities better than Obama's
trump king of jordan visit
CNN
trump king of jordan visit
Now playing
01:15
Trump: No regrets signing executive order
Immigrant children walk in a line outside the Homestead Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Children, a former Job Corps site that now houses them, on Wednesday, June 20, 2018, in Homestead, Fla. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Brynn Anderson/AP
Immigrant children walk in a line outside the Homestead Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Children, a former Job Corps site that now houses them, on Wednesday, June 20, 2018, in Homestead, Fla. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Now playing
01:54
Children in limbo after Trump executive order
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo listens as President Donald Trump speaks during a cabinet meeting at the White House, Thursday, June 21, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Evan Vucci/AP
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo listens as President Donald Trump speaks during a cabinet meeting at the White House, Thursday, June 21, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Now playing
02:18
White House chaos over immigration reversal
Watched by Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen (L) and Vice President Mike Pence, US President Donald Trump signs an executive order on immigration in the Oval Office of the White House on June 20, 2018 in Washington, DC. - US President Donald Trump on Wednesday signed an executive order aimed at putting an end to the controversial separation of migrant families at the border, reversing a harsh practice that had earned international scorn."It's about keeping families together," Trump said at the signing ceremony. "I did not like the sight of families being separated," he added. (Photo by Mandel Ngan / AFP)        (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images
Watched by Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen (L) and Vice President Mike Pence, US President Donald Trump signs an executive order on immigration in the Oval Office of the White House on June 20, 2018 in Washington, DC. - US President Donald Trump on Wednesday signed an executive order aimed at putting an end to the controversial separation of migrant families at the border, reversing a harsh practice that had earned international scorn."It's about keeping families together," Trump said at the signing ceremony. "I did not like the sight of families being separated," he added. (Photo by Mandel Ngan / AFP) (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
02:49
What's next after Trump's policy reversal?
Trump meeting 06202018
POOL
Trump meeting 06202018
Now playing
02:33
Trump reverses position on family separations
President Donald Trump signs an executive order to keep families together at the border, but says that the 'zero-tolerance' prosecution policy will continue, during an event in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, June 20, 2018. Standing behind Trump are Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, left, and Vice President Mike Pence. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP
President Donald Trump signs an executive order to keep families together at the border, but says that the 'zero-tolerance' prosecution policy will continue, during an event in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, June 20, 2018. Standing behind Trump are Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, left, and Vice President Mike Pence. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Now playing
01:52
Trump signs executive order to end family separations
CNN
Now playing
01:18
Trump: Take children away to prosecute parents
THE PRESIDENT meets with the National Space Council  In-House Pool (Pre-set 9:30AM | Final Gather 11:15AM -- Palm Room Doors)
Pool
THE PRESIDENT meets with the National Space Council In-House Pool (Pre-set 9:30AM | Final Gather 11:15AM -- Palm Room Doors)
Now playing
01:40
Trump: The US will not be a migrant camp

Story highlights

Starting in the summer, crossings began to once again approach historic levels

Trump has employed aggressive rhetoric and spoken consistently about securing the border

(CNN) —  

The Trump administration is pointing to a recent uptick in illegal border crossings as evidence that it needs more authority – even as it continues to tout a longer-term decrease as proof of the effectiveness of its policies.

Illegal entries to the US have risen substantially over the past few months.

In a rare statement on its monthly report of apprehensions and rejections at the border, the Department of Homeland Security on Tuesday both praised the numbers and said work remained.

“The final border apprehension numbers of 2017, specifically at the southern border, undeniably prove the effectiveness of President Trump’s commitment to securing our borders,” said DHS spokesman Tyler Houlton, noting the numbers over the last year were 40% below the final year of President Barack Obama’s tenure.

But, Houlton said, the recent increase spelled trouble.

“The significant increase over the last month in the number of family units and unaccompanied children coming across the border illegally highlights the dire need for Congress to immediately adopt responsible pro-American immigration reforms. … The Secretary will require fixes to these loopholes as part of any immigration package negotiated (in a meeting Tuesday) at the White House.”

After a sharp drop in the number of undocumented immigrants attempting to cross the border at the beginning of the Trump administration, the President and his administration frequently cited the low numbers as evidence that Trump’s immigration policy works.

But starting in the summer, crossings began to again approach historic levels. With 40,513 apprehensions and rejections at the southern border in December, the total numbers are behind fiscal years 2016 and 2017, but surpass crossings in fiscal years 2013, 2014 and 2015.

The administration has employed aggressive rhetoric and spoken consistently about securing the border and cracking down on undocumented immigrants in the US. Arrests by Immigration and Customs Enforcement are up – but little has operationally changed at the border and deportations last year lagged behind the last year of Obama’s presidency.

Trump is pushing for aggressive policies as part of a deal to protect the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, as conservatives argue that allowing undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship will only add incentives for potential illegal crossings in the future.