Biden tries the Trump border playbook! Guess what happens.
I'm shocked. Genius.
Migrant Arrests Fell by Roughly Half in January After New Enforcement Measures
Revamped policy sends more migrants back to Mexico while expanding a legal path to claim asylum
By Michelle Hackman and Alicia A. Caldwell, WSJ
Jan. 29, 2023 5:30 am ET
Illegal crossings at the southern border have dropped to roughly half the levels seen in December, after the Biden administration rolled out new border-enforcement measures earlier this month.
Arrests across the U.S.-Mexico border have fallen to between 4,000 and 5,000 a day in January, down from about 8,000 to 9,000 a day last month, according to three federal officials familiar with the unpublished data.
The Biden administration earlier this month introduced new policies to deter migrants from crossing into the U.S. illegally. Those measures have drawn criticism from immigration advocates and some Democrats who say they are illegal and inhumane.
The drop in crossings has been welcomed by officials at the border, though some believe the trend might be temporary.
“This is pretty significant and some of it has to be some of the changes the president made,” said Doug Nicholls, the Republican mayor of Yuma, Ariz. In his border town, which had long been a popular crossing point for migrants from South America, illegal crossings fell by 65% this month.
Under the new policy, announced in early January, Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans and Venezuelans are now subject to Title 42, a pandemic-era border measure that allows migrants to be expelled rapidly back to Mexico before they can ask for asylum.
The administration has instead been directing migrants from those four countries to apply to a new program, which allows up to 30,000 would-be migrants a month to come to the country legally for two years as long as an American is willing to financially sponsor them.
By giving migrants a viable alternative path into the country, the administration hopes, migrants won’t feel desperate enough to attempt the treacherous trek to the U.S. border.
Those four nationalities posed perhaps the most complex challenge for Biden administration immigration officials because, until this month, neither Mexico nor their home countries would take them back.
Together, they represented more than two in five total crossings at the border last year, though they made up the majority of migrants released into the U.S. because the government had few other options.
According to data released by the government this past week, crossings by the four nationalities fell by 97% since last month, to an average of 115 this past week from more than 3,700 in all of December.
Administration officials privately say, however, that the drop could at least partially be explained by a seasonal lull. Crossings typically decline over the Christmas holidays and pick up leading into the spring.
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Meanwhile, migrants from Ecuador and Peru—where governments have seen recent instability—are heading to the U.S. in greater numbers. Ecuadoreans and Peruvians made up 10% of border crossings in October through December, compared with 3% over the 2022 fiscal year, which ended in September, federal data show.
Mr. Nicholls in Yuma said he is also concerned that the current border regime could fall apart if Title 42 is lifted, which could happen as soon as this spring with a coming Supreme Court decision.
“I am still not seeing hard preparation for Title 42 ending. We have for the last two years put that off for the future,” he said.
House Republicans are planning several hearings in the weeks ahead to spotlight what they call President Biden’s border crisis. Texas and nearly 20 other GOP-led states are suing the administration to try to halt the new parole program, which they say circumvents limits on immigration set by Congress. The Biden administration has said that the lawsuit, if successful, could topple its entire border regime and drive illegal crossings back up because desperate migrants would see no alternative.
In the meantime, the decline has relieved significant pressure on local officials and nonprofit shelters along the border, who had been asking for more resources.
The stretch of border around El Paso, Texas, became the epicenter of border crossings in December, as thousands of migrants—mostly from Nicaragua and Cuba—crossed into the city, overwhelming local shelters to the point where some were forced to sleep on the streets.
The region has seen crossings plunge, to about 1,000 a day from 2,500. The number of migrants released into the city of El Paso has likewise dropped, to a few hundred a day from a thousand a day in December.
At the peak of the crisis in December, the city transformed its downtown convention center and two decommissioned schools into emergency migrant shelters. Those shelters are now closed.
“We’re to a point where we can really slow down just a little bit, take a deep breath and take a look at what we think is forthcoming,” said John Martin, deputy director for the Opportunity Center for the Homeless in El Paso, a nonprofit that runs a shelter that also aids arriving migrants.
Sister Norma Pimentel, a Catholic nun who runs a respite center in McAllen, Texas, said there has been a sharp decline in border crossings in South Texas in recent weeks.
She said the new process to enter the U.S. legally offers a safer alternative for migrants who might otherwise try to navigate their way across the Rio Grande.
In addition to the new legal program, the U.S. has also opened appointments at legal border crossings, where migrants can approach and ask for asylum without crossing illegally into the U.S.
“I am just hopeful that the immigrants are patient and that they don’t get desperate,” Sister Norma said. “I think it’s definitely better for people to have an appointment, to enter legally and safely.”