President Donald Trump took credit on Thursday for what he said was a decades-low drop in border crossings from Mexico at a time when his administration has touted the need to militarize the border due to a surge in migration.
“Because of the Trump Administrations actions, Border crossings are at a still UNACCEPTABLE 46 year low. Stop drugs!” he tweeted.
Trump also said in his tweet the migrant caravan moving toward the US-Mexico border has “largely broken up thanks to the strong immigration laws of Mexico and their willingness to use them so as not to cause a giant scene at our Border.”
The caravan, however, is only dispersing into smaller groups after reaching Mexico City.
Trump was referring to a Department of Homeland Security report issued in December that found border crossings were at a 46-year low for fiscal year 2017. But the data doesn’t cover the last several months, in which numbers have climbed to be more in line with those for the final years of the Obama administration. Another DHS report issued in September that looked at long-term trends found that border crossings have been trending downward since before Trump took office.
Trump announced on Wednesday that he was sending National Guard troops to the southern border. Although his administration has at times cited a “Trump effect” for what it said was a dip in border crossings, the number of migrants trying to illegally cross into the US at the Mexico border spiked dramatically in March, according to figures released by US Customs and Border Protection.
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen on Wednesday cited a historic uptick in border crossings in spring months like April and advertising from smuggling groups as reasons for the move, calling it in part “anticipating.”
“Why not yesterday and tomorrow? Today is the day we want to start this process,” Nielsen said. “The threat is real, as I mentioned.”
Following Trump’s comments on Thursday, Nielsen tweeted that despite the “historic lows in illegal traffic last year, the numbers are spiking.”
“March numbers up 37% from Feb (largest one month change in at least 8 years) and TRIPLE over March 2017. We must secure our border. As @POTUS has said: All options are on the table,” she continued.
The caravan has captured the attention of Trump and his administration this week, serving as a symbol to further attempt to alter the foreign aid, trade and immigration policies the President has long wanted to tackle.
In his tweets about the caravan earlier this week, Trump threatened to pull foreign aid from Honduras – where many of the caravan’s participants are emigrating from. And before Trump credited Mexico’s “strong immigration laws” for dispersing much of the migrant group on Thursday, earlier this week he warned that he would “stop their cash cow, NAFTA,” if the country doesn’t reduce the flow of immigrants coming across the southern US border.
The caravan, an annual event organized by activists to highlight the journey that migrants undertake, has typically dispersed into separate, smaller groups at some point along the journey. Organizers of the event project that some 200 or so will proceed all the way to the border in coming days.
However, caravan organizers have told CNN that Trump’s rhetoric and policies have “scared them.” Still, groups are traveling the same distance and routes as they have for the last eight years.
CNN’s Tal Kopan, Leyla Santiago and Khushbu Shah contributed to this report.