Dec. 5 (UPI) -- The number of people arrested crossing the U.S. border from Mexico has reached the lowest level in 46 years as deportations has risen, according to government statistics Tuesday.
In the 2017 fiscal year, U.S. border agents made 310,531 arrests, a decline of 24 percent from 2016 and the lowest number since 1971.
The government's fiscal year began Oct. 1, 2016, and included nearly four months under former President Barack Obama. Of the arrests, 304,000 were made along the Southwest border.
However, Immigration and Customs Enforcement's apprehension of people picked up for deportation away from the border increased 25 percent from last year. After Trump took office on Jan. 20, arrests rose 40 percent. "Interior removals," which are deportations after being arrested away from the border, increased 25 percent.
"We have clearly seen the successful results of the president's commitment to supporting the frontline officers and agents of (the Department of Homeland Security) as they enforce the law and secure our borders," acting DHS chief Elaine Duke said in a statement. "We have an obligation to uphold the integrity of our immigration system, but we must do more to step up and close loopholes to protect the American worker, our economy, and our communities."
"We need to find a solution to the dangerous 'sanctuary city' policies and the politicians who needlessly risk innocent lives to protect criminals who are illegally present in the United States," said ICE Deputy Director Thomas Homan.
Among the arrests, about 58 percent were from countries other than Mexico, largely Central America.
The number of people apprehended traveling together as families increased to 104,997, and unaccompanied children crossed 48,681 times.
Ronald Vitiello, Customs and Border Protection's acting deputy commissioner, said he was "very concerned" about increases in families and children crossing in recent months.
"We are also concerned about the significant uptick in the smuggling of opioids and other hard narcotics, including heroin and cocaine, which generally increase when illegal border crossings spike," Vitiello said.
Officials said a total of 2,370 pounds of fentanyl and $524 million in illicit currency and assets were seized.
The Health and Human Services Department said it's "enhancing border security, implementing a merit-based immigration system and closing loopholes that encourage illegal immigration."