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Drop in illegal US entries continues after migrant policy shift

Migrants wait for a bus to take them to a processing center after they turned themselves over to US Border Patrol agents after crossing over from Mexico in Fronton, Texas
Migrants wait for a bus to take them to a processing center after they turned themselves over to US Border Patrol agents after crossing over from Mexico in Fronton, Texas - Copyright Syrian Presidency Facebook page/AFP -
Migrants wait for a bus to take them to a processing center after they turned themselves over to US Border Patrol agents after crossing over from Mexico in Fronton, Texas - Copyright Syrian Presidency Facebook page/AFP -

Attempted illegal crossings of the southern US border have plunged since new policies to deal with undocumented migrants came into place last week, a US official said Wednesday.

The Border Patrol counted less than 4,000 “encounters” — apprehensions and expulsions —  with people crossing over without permission each of the last two days, said Blas Nunez-Neto, assistant secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.

That compared with 10,100 per day in the week before the lifting of Title 42, the Covid-19 health emergency rule used for three years to swiftly expel a wide array of migrants, he told reporters.

Replacing Title 42 was a policy package anchored on immigration law Title 8, which provides for strict penalties for those crossing who do not qualify, including five-year bans on US entry and possible criminal charges.

That was combined with an expansion of formal avenues to migrate to the United States, focused especially on refugees and asylum applicants.

The aim was to stem pressure at the border, where more than 200,000 migrant encounters occurred in most months over the last year, creating a political crisis for President Joe Biden.

Nunez-Neto said last week’s policy change appeared to be achieving the goal of reducing illegal immigration.

The number of Mexicans encountered fell from 1,900 daily to 1,000 and Colombians from 1,400 to 510 a day.

The number of Venezuelan migrants had also plunged to 50 per day, after hitting 2,400 before the policy change.

The 4,000 a day was also lower than the average of 7,000 encounters a day in April.

In addition, said Nunez-Neto, there were signs that the northward movement of migrants from South and Central America to the Mexico-US frontier has slowed.

“We are also seeing some early promising signs that entries into the Darien jungle between Colombia and Panama have been declining in recent days,” he said, referring to a particularly treacherous section of the main route for migrants heading north.

Instead, “tens of thousands” have been applying for immigration interviews with US Customs and Border Protection, and over 5,000 have been “processed” in their appointments since May 12, he said.

And many Haitians, Venezuelans and Cubans are taking advantage of a special program to migrate as refugees that requires them to apply from abroad, he said.

“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,” said Nunez-Neto.

“We continue to monitor the situation on our border and in Mexico and along the transit routes in real time,” he said.

AFP
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