Migrant crossings at the U.S.-Mexico border have unexpectedly fallen, not risen, since Title 42 curbs expired and reinstating criminal penalties for illegal entry is likely the biggest reason, the Biden administration said on Sunday.
U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said border patrol agents have seen a 50% drop in the number of migrants crossing the border since Thursday, when President Joe Biden’s administration shifted to a sweeping new asylum regulation meant to deter illegal crossings.
The numbers we have experienced in the past two days are markedly down over what they were prior to the end of Title 42,” Mayorkas said on CNN’s “State of the Union” program. He said there were 6,300 border encounters on Friday and 4,200 on Saturday, but cautioned it was still early in the new regime.
Mayorkas credited the criminal penalties for migrants who illegally enter the country, which resumed under existing law after Title 42’s expiration, for the decrease in crossings. The COVID-era rule adopted under former President Donald Trump allowed officials to expel migrants quickly without an asylum process but did not impose penalties.
Biden, asked during a bike ride near his vacation home in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, how he believed the border situation was going, responded: “Much better than you all expected.”
Biden said he did not have plans to visit the border in the near term.
The Biden administration plan requires migrants to schedule an immigration appointment through an app or seek protection from countries they passed through on their way to the U.S. border. If they do not follow the process and are caught entering the U.S. illegally, they are not allowed to try again, even through legal means, for five years. There are prison terms for other violations.