The Department of Homeland Security is crediting a slight drop in Border Patrol apprehensions of undocumented immigrants in July to President Donald Trump’s zero-tolerance immigration policy while blaming consistently high rates of family unit apprehensions on federal court orders.

The Department of Homeland Security is crediting a slight drop in Border Patrol apprehensions of undocumented immigrants in July to President Donald Trump’s zero-tolerance immigration policy while blaming consistently high rates of family unit apprehensions on federal court orders.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection last week released apprehension numbers from July, the second consecutive month that Border Patrol reported a decrease in the arrests of immigrants entering the country illegally.

The Rio Grande Valley Sector remained the busiest area in the country for apprehensions of undocumented immigrants, recording thousands of more instances of apprehensions than the rest of the southwest border region. Border Patrol said in a press release that the Rio Grande Sector accounted for nearly half of total apprehensions and more than half of family unit arrests for the southwestern border.

In July, Border Patrol reported arresting 13,241 undocumented immigrants in the Rio Grande Valley Sector. That group includes 5,219 family units and 1,931 unaccompanied minors. Those numbers reflect a decrease of 4,251 total apprehensions since May, including 929 fewer unaccompanied minors and 1,441 fewer family units. The monthly decrease is slimmer, however, with 1,467 fewer total apprehensions, 643 fewer unaccompanied minors being arrested and just 197 fewer family unit apprehensions.

However, Border Patrol apprehension records show that total apprehensions have more than doubled during the same three-month period this year, which spans Trump’s zero-tolerance policy.

Those records also show that apprehensions along the southwest border have surpassed Fiscal Year 2017, when there were 303,916 arrests. With two months left in Fiscal Year 2018, Border Patrol agents have arrested 317,581 undocumented immigrants.

Department of Homeland Security Press Secretary Tyler Q. Houlton said in a statement published after CBP released its numbers that the two-month decrease reflected that immigrants are changing their minds about entering the country illegally.

“This decrease shows that when there are real consequences for breaking the law, the conduct of those considering crimes will change,” Houlton said. “In the month of July, we saw a decrease in illegal border crossings because human traffickers and Transnational Criminal Organizations were put on notice that this Administration was increasing prosecutions of those entering the country illegally. Despite our terribly broken immigration laws, the administration has still been able to impact illegal immigration — but we need Congress to act to fix our system.”

Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a zero-tolerance policy toward illegal immigration in April, which moved first-time offenders who were often prosecuted civilly to federal court for misdemeanor immigration violations.

U.S. magistrate judge dockets in Brownsville federal court have reflected dozens of initial appearances each week by undocumented immigrants charged under the zero-tolerance policy since the policy began, resulting in large dockets for the courthouse’s two magistrate judges.

The policy also resulted in family separations at the border of family units, on which Trump reversed course in June in the face of national and international outrage.

The Rio Grande Valley was ground zero for family separations, as government officials, politicians, national media, activists and even First Lady Melania Trump descended on Brownsville and McAllen to tour immigration processing centers and nonprofit facilities where children separated from their families were held, or stand outside those facilities in protest.

Since then, based on an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit, a federal judge in California has ordered the federal government to reunite children separated from families under the policy. The federal government failed to meet its deadline to reunite all the children, 559 of which remained separated as of Aug. 10.

Houlton references this order, saying it is preventing the federal government from detaining and prosecuting family unit adults.

“At the same time, the number of family units apprehended at the border remains high and their percentage of total crossings has increased as court decisions prevent us from detaining and prosecuting family unit adults,” Houlton said. “The inability to apply consequences to any law breaker ultimately threatens the safety and security of the nation and its communities.”

U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela, who represents Brownsville and has been a vocal critic of Trump, said in a statement the administration is lying by equating the zero-tolerance policy with decreasing apprehensions.

“Once again, the Trump Administration is simply not telling the truth when they credit the President’s zero-tolerance policy with decreasing apprehensions on the US-Mexico border,” Vela said. “Apprehension numbers typically start to drop in May, June, and July. The seasonal drop is nothing new.”

CBP Border Patrol data dating from 2000 to 2017 largely reflects that trend, with a handful of exceptions during the past 17 years. The most notable exception, and the only year in that time span when apprehension numbers increased from May to June to July, was last year, which was Trump’s first year in office.

Last year, in this sector, Border Patrol apprehended 4,882 undocumented immigrants in May. In June, that number was 5,817, and in July the total apprehensions were 7,107. That trend remained the same all along the southwest border, with 14,519 total apprehensions in May, 16,087 in June and 18,187 in July.

And the number of undocumented immigrants entering the country illegally in 2018 has more than doubled for the same time period last year, with 40,333 undocumented immigrants apprehended along the southwest border in May, 34,095 in June and 31,303 in July. However, the usual downward trend reflected in historic Border Patrol data continued.

Vela also slammed Trump’s policy toward undocumented families entering illegally.

“Trump’s inhuman policy has had virtually no impact on the number of families detained at the border,” Vela said. “Even with over 2,500 children taken from their parents and hundreds still waiting to be reunited, desperate families continue to flee violence in Central America. No amount of border enforcement or border walls will change the underlying reasons families are risking everything to escape.”

Houlton, the DHS press secretary, said in the statement that DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen is speaking weekly with Mexican and Central American officials.

“Additionally, the Secretary has been engaging weekly with Mexican and Central American officials to more aggressively tackle the root causes of this crises — and DHS has received commitments on specific actions that can be taken with and by our partners to confront the issue more decisively,” Houlton said, without elaboration.

Vela, in his statement, said the federal government should work to improve conditions in Central American countries like El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

“Rather than denigrating Central American countries, the administration should focus on diplomatic efforts which will improve conditions in those countries so that people will no longer be compelled to leave,” Vela said.