U.S. Customs and Border Protection said a new parole program intended to stem the tide of migration flows from Cuba, Haiti, and Nicaragua is working as total encounters at the southwest border dropped nearly 40 percent in January from the previous month.
And encounters with CBP between ports of entry dropped 42 percent, from 221,675 in December to 128,410 last month — the lowest figure since February 2021, when migration flows began increasing after the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The January monthly operational update clearly illustrates that new border enforcement measures are working, with the lowest level of Border Patrol encounters between Ports of Entry since February of 2021,” CBP Acting Commissioner Troy Miller said. “Those trends have continued into February, with average encounters of Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans, and Venezuelans plummeting.”
CBP reported more than a quarter million encounters along the southwest border in December, a 7 percent rise from the previous month and a 40 percent jump from December 2021. At the beginning of January, DHS announced it would extend to more nationalities programs modeled after those put in place to admit Ukrainians and Venezuelans under certain conditions, asserting that this measure was one of the “concrete steps” necessary to enhance border security while — and after — the fate of the Title 42 migrant expulsion public health order is in legal limbo.
Up to 30,000 people per month from Venezuela, Cuba, Haiti, and Nicaragua will be admitted under the parole and work authorization program, with DHS vowing “significant consequences for those who fail to use those pathways.” Meanwhile, Mexico will accept returns of 30,000 individuals per month from these four countries if they don’t go through the new process.
The process for Cubans, Nicaraguans, and Haitians went into effect on Jan. 6. Eligibility for the new process is considered on a case-by-case basis; the program allows for advance authorization to travel to U.S. and seek up to two years of parole if the individual has a financial supporter in the United States, passes robust security vetting, and meets other criteria.
CBP officials were expecting to see in January statistics a migration pattern similar to what occurred with Venezuelans. In September, there were 33,804 encounters of Venezuelans at the southwest border. On Oct. 12, DHS announced a new process by which certain Venezuelans could apply for temporary residency in the United States. In October, there were 22,045 encounters of Venezuelans at the southwest border; by November, that had dropped to 7,957.
“Encounters of Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans, and Venezuelans between ports of entry at the southwest border declined from a 7-day average of 1,231 on the day of the announcement on January 5, to 59 on January 31—a drop of 95 percent in just over three weeks,” CBP reported Friday. “Those trends have endured so far through the month of February. The reduction occurred even as encounters of other noncitizens began to rebound from their typical seasonal drop.”
Last month, 11,637 Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans, and Venezuelans were paroled into the United States by Office of Field Operations.
Total encounters of individuals migrating as part of a family unit decreased by 50.1 percent from 77,155 in December to 38,087 in January, a 56.5 percent decrease from the peak of 87,461 in August 2021, CBP said. Encounters of unaccompanied children dropped 23.5 percent, with 9,393 encounters in January compared with 12,283 in December. More than two-thirds of all southwest land border encounters were single adults; the 108,573 encounters in January were a 33 percent decrease from December.
While an average of 570 unaccompanied children were in CBP custody per day in December, that dropped to 334 per day in January.
The use of the CBP One app, which allows travelers and stakeholders to access CBP mobile applications and services, was also expanded last month to let migrants approaching the southwest border make an appointment at a point of entry. That launched Jan. 12 for noncitizens seeking an exemption to the CDC’s Title 42 public health order. Through the app, they can submit certain biographic and biometric information to CBP and make an appointment up to 14 days in advance at the ports of entry in Nogales, Brownsville, Eagle Pass, Hidalgo, Laredo, El Paso, Calexico or San Ysidro.
CBP processed 21,661 individuals at ports of entry last month who claimed exceptions to Title 42. This includes 9,902 people between January 18 and 31 who scheduled an appointment with the new CBP One functionality.
“While the high demand for these appointments has meant that not all individuals seeking appointments have yet been able to schedule them (individuals commonly waited more than three months in shelters to be considered under the Title 42 exception process before the use of CBP One), the transition of the exceptions process to CBP One allows more open access and has provided immediate benefits in reducing the exploitation of vulnerable persons seeking to present at POEs,” CBP said. “Over 20,000 individuals have scheduled an appointment via CBP One and the top nationalities who have done so are Venezuelan and Haitian.”