Biden admin ‘encouraged’ by lower post-Title 42 migrant numbers, but urges caution for weeks ahead

The Biden administration says it is “encouraged” by lower migrant numbers in the wake of the end of the Title 42 public health order, which it says is showing that its border measures are working — although officials are urging caution about drawing conclusions. Department of Homeland Security official Blas Nunez-Neto told reporters that the daily average of illegal border encounters since the order expired on Thursday is just over 4,400 a day, including fewer than 4,000 in the last two days. That represents a decrease of 56% in the four days preceding the end of the public health order — which allowed for the rapid expulsion of migrants at the southern border due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Border Patrol had encountered over 10,000 migrants a day in the days leading up to the order’s termination. He linked the drop in apprehensions to the Biden administration’s multi-part plan to deal with the surge, which includes a new asylum rule that makes many migrants ineligible for asylum if they cross illegally, as well as an increase in Title 8 penalties and greater cooperation with Mexico — along with an expansion of legal pathways for migrants into the U.S. BIDEN POLICY TO RELEASE ILLEGAL MIGRANTS WITHOUT COURT DATES SUFFERS ANOTHER BLOW AS JUDGE EXTENDS BLOCK “Since the National Public Health Emergency and our enforcement of Title 42 at the border expired on May 12, we continue to see encouraging signs that the measures we have put in place are working,” he said. Nunez-Neto also said there were “early promising signs” that entries into the Darien Gap between Colombia and Panama have been declining. However, officials are still urging caution — indicating concerns that the weeks ahead may see a fresh increase at the border. “I want to stress once again that it is still too soon to draw any firm conclusions here about where these trends will go in the coming days and weeks. And we continue to monitor the situation on our border and in Mexico and along the transit routes in real time,” he said. He later repeated that warning: “I want to caution once again that while we are encouraged by these early results, we are just in the first week of this transition from Title 42 to Title 8 authorities, and we know that smugglers will continue to weaponize misinformation about changes in border policy to put migrants lives at risk for profit.” Nunez-Neto said the top three nationalities are from Mexico, Colombia and Guatemala. Before the lifting of Title 42, the top three countries were Venezuela, Mexico and Colombia in that order. However, beyond the Biden administration’s own policies, there have been other moves that may have contributed to the decrease in encounters post-Title 42. Most importantly, a federal judge has blocked the Biden administration’s efforts to release migrants into the U.S. on “parole with conditions” just hours before Title 42 ended. On Tuesday, the two-week restraining order was turned into a preliminary injunction, meaning the policy will not be implemented any time soon. The policy, which saw migrants released into the U.S. without court dates in the event of overcrowding, was blocked on the basis it was nearly identical to a “Parole + ATD” policy that the same judge blocked in March. The Biden administration has called the policy “harmful” and warned it could exacerbate overcrowding. The administration told the judge Monday that it had released over 6,400 migrants on Thursday alone under the policy — although it has denied it was engaged in the “mass release” of migrants. Separately, Texas has taken a series of enforcement steps to stop illegal entry into the U.S., including building barbed wire barriers and blocking migrants from crossing into Texas. On Tuesday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced that his state will be sending law enforcement, drones and National Guard troops to the Texas-Mexico border. DHS stressed the need for cooperation with state and local governments, but suggested that the moves by Texas and Florida were politically motivated. “Outstanding coordination taking place at the local level each and every day. We have seen, however, at times that Gov. DeSantis and [Texas Gov. Greg Abbott] take actions that are being done really for purely political reasons and that do not involve the kind of coordination that we really need to see at the border,” Nunez-Neto said. “We are confident in our men and women on the front lines, ability to conduct their border operations in a safe, humane and secure manner. And we again call on the governors to make sure that any steps they take are done in coordination with our federal personnel,” he said.
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