Written by Miriam Jordan and Kirk Semple
At its peak, the nonprofit shelter run by Jewish Family Service of San Diego held more than 300 migrants dropped off by U.S. immigration authorities after they crossed the border from Mexico. Some days this spring were so busy that new arrivals had to be sent to overflow sites.
Now, the shelter is almost eerily empty. The number of people arriving there has plunged in recent weeks amid a precipitous decline in arrivals along the southern border, where the Department of Homeland Security said that apprehensions dropped 28% in June.
While migrant arrivals typically decline as the hot, hazardous summer months set in, the Department of Homeland Security said the drop in June was much larger than the 11% drop in June of last year.
The difference suggested that the Trump administration’s long push to curtail the arrival of migrants at the southwest border is finally showing results.
President Donald Trump has made it a cornerstone of his administration to halt the flow of undocumented migrants, expanding security fencing, slowing processing at ports of entry and locking up record numbers of migrants.
The threat of tariffs helped push Mexico to deploy security forces on its own southern border, curtailing the flow of migrants from neighboring Guatemala.
A second initiative has forced many migrants to return to Mexico to await the outcome of their asylum or deportation cases in U.S. immigration courts. More than 18,000 migrants, including asylum seekers, have been returned to Tijuana and other Mexican cities since the policy was put into place, according to Mexico’s National Migration Institute.
“These initiatives are making an impact,” the Department of Homeland Security said in a statement.
At the nonprofit shelter here in San Diego, the effects have been drastic. On Friday of last week, not a single migrant arrived — a first for the facility since it opened in October.
“We have been startled by the stark decline that happened virtually overnight,” said Kate Clark, senior director of immigration services at the shelter. “U.S. immigration authorities are not bringing families who have been processed to the shelter because they are returning them to Mexico.”
Tijuana, by contrast, is still full of migrants — many of them turned back at the border under the Trump administration’s “Remain in Mexico” program.
“The United States policy to return people to Mexico and the pressure on Mexico to stop the migration are having a big impact,” said Daniel Bribiescas, an immigration lawyer in Tijuana.