Statistics On Border Crossings Shed Light On What’s Actually Going On There

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As 2018 comes to a close, the U.S. government is in the midst of a partial shutdown, thanks to President Trump's insistence on building a wall on America's southern border. Trump built his political career on the idea that America's southern border is dangerously porous and, likewise, that he's the only one who can fix that. But how many people actually enter America through the border that year? The government's statistics on border crossings can help shed some light on that question.

"I would build a great wall, and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me, and I’ll build them very inexpensively," Trump said when he announced his presidential run in 2015. "I will build a great great wall on our southern border and I’ll have Mexico pay for that wall."

The southern border has remained one of Trump's fixations ever since then, but his plans to build a wall on the border have sputtered. There are various estimates as to how much it would cost to build such a wall, ranging from $8 billion (according to Trump himself) to $70 billion (according to congressional Democrats).

Despite Trump's promise to bill Mexico for the wall, the Trump administration has asked Congress to allocate $25 billion of taxpayer money for the project. But Congress has refused, and so, in an attempt to force lawmakers' hands, Trump in December refused to sign any government funding bill without funding for a wall. Senate Democrats refused to approve such funding, though, and the government shut down. (Trump supporters, meanwhile, are attempting to crowdfund a wall on GoFundMe).

But what's actually been going on at the southern border? Although it's impossible to track the number of undocumented immigrants who've successfully entered the country, Customs and Border Patrol does keep detailed statistics on how many immigrants are apprehended or turned away at the southern border. Let's take a look at what happened at the southern border in 2018, courtesy of the government's own statistics.

Note: CBP tracks border crossing statistics by "fiscal years," which begin in October the previous and end the following September. As a result, the below numbers reflect the period of time between October 2017 and September 2018.

Apprehended At The Border

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There were 396,579 people apprehended at the southern U.S. border for attempting to enter between official ports of entry.

Denied Entry

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Another 124,511 people arrived through ports of entry but were denied entry to the United States. CBP refers to such folks as "inadmissibles," and according to the CBP website, they include people who unsuccessfully apply for asylum.

Children At The Border, Part I

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3,155 unaccompanied children were apprehended while trying to cross the border in 2018.

Children At The Border, Part II

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653 unaccompanied children attempted to enter the United States through official ports of entry but were denied.

Thanks, Obama

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During Barack Obama's final year in office, 553,378 people were either apprehended at the southern border or turned away at ports of entry. That's more than in either of Trump's first two years in office.

Longterm Trends

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Between 2013 and 2018, the number of yearly apprehensions and denials at the southern border has oscillated between 415,517 and 569,237. It's always reversed its trajectory from the year before, and the number of apprehensions and denials has always been higher in election years than in off years.

The Final Tally

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In total, 521,090 people were either apprehended or denied entry at the southern border in 2018.

Immigrants south of the border come to the United States for a variety of reasons, and although Trump often suggests that their motives are nefarious, the root source of their migration is often crime and poverty in their home countries. As long as those problems remain, southern migration to the United States isn't going to stop any time soon.