Migrant crossings along the US-Mexico border plummeted in June

The number of migrants who crossed the US-Mexico border without permission in June fell to the lowest level since the start of the Biden administration after the enactment of stricter asylum rulesaccording to unpublished government data obtained by CBS News.

Border Patrol agents recorded just over 100,000 arrests of migrants who entered the United States illegally along the southern border last month, a sharp drop from the 169,000 arrests reported in May, preliminary statistics show. .

Border Patrol apprehensions indicate the number of times the agency has processed migrants who entered the United States between legal ports of entry, which is illegal. They do not include migrants processed at ports of entry, where the Biden administration admits tens of thousands of asylum seekers each month.

The last time Border Patrol apprehensions along the US-Mexico border were lower was in February 2021, President Biden’s first full month in the White House. The number of illegal border entries remains high compared to pre-pandemic levels.

However, the marked reduction of illegal crossings has, at least temporarily, mitigated key operational, humanitarian and political challenges faced by the Biden administration over the past year following an unprecedented migration crisis that saw record numbers of migrants arriving at the border Mexican-American.

In May, daily illegal border crossings peaked at a record 10,000 before authorities ended the Title 42 pandemic measure that allowed them to deport many migrants on public health grounds, without allowing them to seek asylum. In June, average daily migrant arrests fell below 4,000.

While a single catalyst is unlikely, U.S. officials and immigration experts said, the decline in illegal crossings could come from stricter asylum rules enacted by the Biden administration in May, programs that allow some potential migrants to enter the country legally, increased efforts by Mexico and other Latin American countries will slow migration to the United States and tougher rhetoric from US authorities.

The United States has also increased regular evictions, which carry stiffer penalties, such as five-year bans and the threat of criminal prosecution, since stopping Title 42 evictions. While Title 42 allowed authorities to summarily deport hundreds of thousands of migrants, it did not impose these sanctions and fueled a massive increase in repeat crossings among deportees to Mexico.

“Part of this decline can be attributed to the force and consequences we are implementing at the border,” Blas Nuñez Neto, assistant secretary for immigration and border policy at the Department of Homeland Security, told AFP. CBS News in an interview on Wednesday.

Nuñez Neto said the administration is staging “the most significant expansion of the use of expedited deportation in DHS history,” describing a process dating back to the 1990s that allows U.S. border officials to deport migrants without a hearing if they do not seek refuge. or if they fail their first asylum checks.

This expansion of expedited deportations has been facilitated by a Biden administration rule that disqualifies migrants from asylum if they illegally enter the United States without first seeking protection in another country. Nuñez Neto said the measure has deterred migration by reducing the percentage of migrants who pass their first asylum interviews from the pre-pandemic average of over 80% to less than 50%.

“What we have seen in the past is that due to Congressional inaction and failure to address the underlying factors in our immigration system that contribute to these now regular migration surges under the presidents of both parties, migrants arrive at the border to seek asylum because they know the system is broken and it will take them years to go through the process,” added Nuñez Neto.

Migrants walk along the US-Mexico border fence on June 6, 2023 in Yuma, Arizona.  Fewer migrants arrived at the border after the 42 title expired. / Credit: Qian Weizhong/VCG via Getty Images

Migrants walk along the US-Mexico border fence on June 6, 2023 in Yuma, Arizona. Fewer migrants arrived at the border after the 42 title expired. / Credit: Qian Weizhong/VCG via Getty Images

Nuñez Neto also credited the Biden administration’s efforts to increase opportunities for migrants to legally enter the country for decreasing illegal entries. A phone app known as CBP One allows up to 44,950 asylum seekers in Mexico to enter the United States each month at ports of entry, while another program gives 30,000 Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans and Venezuelans the opportunity to fly to the United States each month.

Other countries south of the United States simultaneously mounted operations to suppress the migration.

“You see Mexico taking action on its southern border to deter migrants from entering Mexico. You see Guatemala doing the same. Colombia and Panama are currently conducting an operation, a coordinated operation, in the Darien (jungle) which is unprecedented in its scope,” Nuñez Neto said.

The recent reduction in the number of illegal immigrants, however, has not extinguished intense Republican criticism of the Biden administration’s border strategy. Republicans accused the administration of playing a ‘shell game’, saying apprehensions are not an accurate measure of progress on the southern border because they do not include those who evade capture and migrants who enter the United States through the Biden administration’s legal migration programs.

“It’s another way to hide the bullet or cook the books to make it look like the situation at the border has improved dramatically when it hasn’t,” the Republican senator said recently. Texas, John Cornyn, in Congress.

Angela Kelley, a top immigration official in the Biden administration until her departure in May 2022, said the CBP One system was “bringing order to the border,” noting that those entering the United States as part of this process do so without the help of smugglers and after being checked by law enforcement.

“A ‘shell game’ involves you moving things around to hide them. Whereas what we are seeing now at the border is that we know where people are and they are not hiding. They are demonstrate,” she added. added.

The new strategy has also not gone down well with migrant advocates and human rights groups, who have argued that the Biden administration is relying on restrictive Trump-era policies to deter migrants. migrants to come to the United States.

Robyn Barnard, a lawyer at Human Rights First, a group that advocates for migrants and refugees, said it was “perverse” for the Biden administration to cite a restriction on asylum as the reason for the drop in border crossings.

“For an administration that claims to be immigrant-friendly and willing to welcome asylum seekers, to tout this ban as a success is very disappointing, as it clearly contravenes our obligations to refugees,” Barnard said, referring restriction on eligibility for asylum.

While migration to the U.S. border remains significantly below record highs seen over the past year, the Biden administration’s new border strategy could be upended by lawsuits, seasonal shifts in migration patterns and the continuous movement of people fleeing poverty and political upheaval across Latin America. , including millions of migrants displaced from crisis-hit Venezuela.

The rule restricting asylum eligibility has been challenged by immigration advocates who say it’s a draconian policy that goes against U.S. refugee law and by Republican-led states that argue it contains too many exemptions. Republican state officials have also asked a judge to shut down the program that allows some migrants to legally travel to the United States if they have American sponsors.

Nuñez Neto, DHS’s borders officer, said the administration still expects to see “a lot of migration in the weeks and months ahead.”

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