Customs and Border Protection (CBP) reported a decline in illegal alien encounters, and a massive drop in cross-border traffic overall, as the Trump administration continues to prohibit non-essential travel amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Speaking to reporters on Thursday, CBP acting Commissioner Mark Morgan broke down how the coronavirus lockdown is affecting operations at the northern and southern borders. CBP agents have seen a substantial drop in vehicle and pedestrian traffic since the administration’s order was put into place on March 21, and thousands of migrants have been quickly turned back.
“We’ve seen a drop in international travel by almost 98%,” Morgan said, referring to the decline as “incredible numbers.”
“Since the implementation of the restrictions, there has been a nationwide decrease of vehicular — non-commercial vehicle-related traffic — at our land [Ports of Entry] nationwide of more than 70%. That’s about 160,000 vehicles per day less that are coming in,” he said.
The CBP chief added there has also been a nationwide decrease of pedestrian traffic by more than 75%, or roughly 100,000 less pedestrians per day traveling through land ports.
The agency confirmed that overall apprehensions on the southern border have declined about 56% since the order was put into place.
In total, the agency is reporting a total of 29,953 apprehensions for the month of March — a slight drop from the 30,074 apprehensions that took place in February. However, these official numbers don’t account for the number of migrants “expelled” since the administration announced the northern and southern borders would be closed to all non-essential traffic.
“In fact, 80% of those we are encountering are being returned within just a couple of hours,” he added, noting how the administration’s order, given by the Centers for Disease Control, is allowing them to quickly turn illegal aliens back to Mexico.
The ability to expeditiously transfer migrants back over the border has allowed the agency to substantially drop the number of aliens in their custody. CBP’s detainee population has dropped nearly 97%, a decline that Morgan referred to as a “dramatic” change. (RELATED: The State Department Has Rescued Over 50,000 Americans Since Coronavirus Crisis Began)
Additionally, thousands of individuals who land in custody are being referred to the CDC. Since the administration closed the borders, CBP has referred more than 268,000 people coming back from coronavirus-affected areas to CDC personnel.
“What we’re experience right now is another reason why we’ve been saying ‘border security is national security,’” Morgan said.