Illegal minor border crossings down 58% from 2014 wave

Has the Obama administration actually succeeded in curbing the tide of illegal immigrant children flooding across the U.S.-Mexico border? Officials seem to think so, as the number of children crossing the border has dropped 58% from the surge in summer 2014:

Thousands of children are still being caught, but it’s a slower and more regular pace than 2014’s wild spike, which saw 7,700 apprehended at the southwest border in April alone, and more than 10,000 each in May and June. By contrast, this April saw just 3,272 unaccompanied minors caught — a drop of 58 percent year to year.

Through the first seven months of the fiscal year, just 18,919 children were caught total, down from the 36,280 a year earlier at the same time.

Ronald D. Vitellio, deputy chief of the Border Patrol, credits the efforts the U.S. made to convince Central Americans that there were no “permisos,” or free passes, into the country:

“Being able to message out to the sending countries and to the individuals that would be coming to the border that there was not a free ride, that they were being exploited by the public perception and the smugglers themselves I think they all recognized that,” the chief said.

Among the other steps the Homeland Security Department took were assigning agents to go after the smuggling networks themselves, in something dubbed Operation Coyote, and working with Central American countries so they are ready to accept their own citizens when the U.S. deports them.

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson hasn’t declared mission accomplished, but if the current pace holds, officials expect to only wrangle up 40,000 children — far fewer than the expected 120,000.