US border arrests drop on as focus turns to Mexicans

A group of asylum seekers crossed the border between El Paso and Juarez, Mexico, earlier this month and turned themselves in to waiting Border Patrol agents. USA TODAY NETWORK

By ELLIOT SPAGAT Associated Press

SAN DIEGO (AP) — The number of people arrested or stopped entering the United States along the Mexico border fell for a seventh straight month in December, with Mexicans making up a larger than usual part of the mix, authorities said Thursday.

The tally underscores a move by the Trump administration to turn more attention to Mexican asylum-seekers.

The Department of Homeland Security has said it plans to send Mexican asylum-seekers to Guatemala with an opportunity to seek protection there. The strategy has elicited sharp criticism from the Mexican government that has so far worked closely with the U.S. to address an unprecedented surge of asylum-seekers, many of them Central American families.

The Trump administration has begun a host of other enforcement measures, including a test to quickly determine asylum claims and deporting Mexicans to the central Mexico city of Guadalajara to discourage repeat attempts.

U,.S. authorities made 40,620 arrests or detentions of people on the Mexico border in December, down 5% from 42,651 in November and down 72% from a 13-year high of 144,116 in May.

Border Patrol arrests of people caught entering the country after crossing illegally outside official crossings totaled 32,858 in December, with Mexicans accounting for more than four of 10 arrests. That’s more than twice as many as any other nationality and a major shift from much of last year, when Guatemala and Honduras were the countries of origin.

Another 7,762 people were stopped at official border crossings with Mexico in December

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