Despite Trump's tough talk on the border, migrants are still making the dangerous trip north

The number of people apprehended trying to cross the US-Mexico border illegally has dropped, but those still making the trip face more danger.

President Donald Trump with newly sworn-in White House Chief of Staff John Kelly.

President Donald Trump's decision to appoint Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly as White House chief of staff gave the president another occasion to tout his administration's efforts to lock down the US's southern border.

"At Homeland, what he has done has been nothing short of miraculous," Trump said of Kelly. "As you know, the border was a tremendous problem, and they're close to 80 percent stoppage."

According to data published by US Customs and Border Protection, the DHS agency tasked with border security, the number of apprehensions and inadmissible persons at the border with Mexico are considerably lower this year in comparison to previous years.

The number for June, 21,659, was down about 52% from the same month last year. The total for the first nine months of this fiscal year, which runs from October to September, was 207,642, down 49% from the 407,742 recorded over the same period last year.

Kelly reported in April that the number of people caught crossing the border illegally in March, less than 12,500, was the lowest number for that month in more than 17 years. But that decline, and the low numbers in other months this calendar year, came even though the Trump administration made no changes to how the border was patrolled.

Trump's tough talk, as well as increased arrests of immigrants in the US, was viewed as likely responsible for the declines — a theory supported by the significant increase in apprehensions at the border seen during the months between when Trump won the election and took office.

But migrants, diplomats, activists, as well as analysis of US apprehension data, suggested the numbers could go up again if Trump's aggressive rhetoric about a border wall and beefed-up border patrol didn't translate into action.

Trump has made moves on those goals — allotting money for both the wall and new DHS hires — but "t

Apprehensions in "the month of June [are] usually lower than May, but it was higher this year," Isacson added, noting other signs that US authorities were dealing with a growing number of arrivals and apprehensions.

"They opened up this huge building out here in the McAllen area to deal with the unaccompanied" minors and others who crossed the US border in massive numbers in 2014, Cabrera said.

"And then fast forward a couple years, Trump wins the election, and then ... January or February it closed down. It just stopped — just because the apprehensions were slowed to a trickle. Now fast forward a couple months, [it's] opened back up."

While overall monthly numbers remain lower than in previous years, the declines seen over the first few months of the Trump presidency appear to have stopped.

The deaths of 10 people found among more than 100 crammed into a sweltering tractor-trailer in San Antonio, Texas, on July 23 underscore that willingness. (A day later, four Guatemalans, including two children, died trying to cross the Rio Grande River into the US.)

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