Migrant Numbers at Border Fell 50% After Rule Change

But many are still in US custody
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 15, 2023 7:40 PM CDT
Migrant Numbers at Border Fell 50% After Rule Change
An immigration official stops a group of migrants from Central America as they walk on a road after they crossed the Texas-Mexico border, Friday, May 12, 2023, in Fronton, Texas.   (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

The number of migrants encountered at the southern US border fell 50% during the last three days compared with the days leading up to the end of a key pandemic-era regulation, federal officials said Monday. A high number of migrants are still in US custody, though the number has fallen significantly since last week, said Blas Nunez-Neto, assistant secretary for border and immigration policy at the Department of Homeland Security. The ability of the Border Patrol to hold migrants has been a concern as more came to the border in the days leading up to the end of immigration restrictions linked to the pandemic, referred to as Title 42, the AP reports. The administration is facing a lawsuit aimed at curtailing its ability to release migrants from custody even when facilities are over capacity.

At one point last week, more than 27,000 migrants were in custody along the border, a number that may top 45,000 by the end of May if the powers to more quickly release migrants from custody when facilities are over capacity are curtailed, said Matthew Hudak, deputy Border Patrol chief, in a court filing last week related to the lawsuit. Nunez-Neto said border officials had been encountering a little less than 5,000 people a day since Title 42 expired at midnight Thursday and new US enforcement measures went into effect Friday.

"It’s still too early to draw firm conclusions. We are closely watching what’s happening. We are confident that the plan that we have developed across the US government to address these flows will work over time," said Nunez-Neto. He credited the US planning as well as enforcement measures Mexico and Guatemala have carried out in recent days along their own southern borders.

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The head of the US Border Patrol, Raul Ortiz, said on Twitter on Monday that his agents had apprehended 14,752 people over the past 72 hours; that averages out to 4,917 per day. The figures given Monday are sharply below the 10,000-plus encountered on three days last week as migrants rushed to get in before new policies to restrict asylum took effect. Title 42 allowed US officials to quickly expel migrants without letting them seek asylum, but it also carried no consequences for those who entered the country and were expelled.

(More US-Mexico border stories.)

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