Border crossings start to rise in spite of ‘Trump effect’

MISSION, Texas (AP) — Felicita Villagran Villeda and her 15-year-old son sat on a dirt road next to the Rio Grande passing a plastic water jug back and forth, trying to catch their breath as the Texas sun bore down on them overhead. Border Patrol agents in green uniforms stood nearby, waiting to take them in.

Agents patrolling the river forming the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas say they’re starting to see more people like the Guatemalan mother and son who had fled their native country two weeks earlier.

The election of President Donald Trump contributed to a dramatic downturn in migration, causing the number of arrests at the border to hit an all-time low in April and helping the U.S. end the 2017 fiscal year at a 45-year low for Border Patrol arrests.

But since bottoming out in April, the number of immigrants caught at the southern border increased monthly, driven in large part by the arrival of new Central American families such as the Villagrans.

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Border Patrol agents interviewed by The Associated Press say they expect the numbers to keep rising, which they see as a sign that families in Central America are testing the Trump administration. Experts who closely follow migration patterns say any drop-off was bound to be temporary as long as the countries most people are fleeing — El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras — remain ravaged by shootings and gang violence.

Sitting next to the Rio Grande, Villagran said her decision to migrate had nothing to do with politics or who is in the White House, but her own personal situation. She was deported from the U.S. four years earlier, and after returning to Guatemala, she said she had been kidnapped and released.

“Now they ask me for money again,” she said. “I don’t have even a dollar.”

The Border Patrol said Tuesday that it made 22,537 apprehensions at the southwest border in September, nearly double the 11,127 detained in April. September is the latest month for which the Border Patrol has published its figures.

Border apprehensions have long ebbed and flowed based on U.S. immigration policy as well as political and economic conditions in Latin America. Border crossings surged last year, especially in November and December, only to fall when Trump took office in January. In December, the Border Patrol reported more than 43,000 arrests; two months later, that number was 18,800.

Some called the…

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