The Department of Homeland Security said it remains “vigilant” and will “continue to execute our plan, making adjustments where needed” as an anticipated surge of migrants at the southwest border after the end of the Title 42 public health order has not yet materialized.
That plan went into effect on May 12, when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Title 42 public health order, which allowed the rapid expulsion of migrants who crossed at U.S. land borders in an effort to control the spread of COVID-19, expired and U.S. Customs and Border Protection began once again enforcing immigration admissibility using Title 8.
DHS acknowledged at the time that smugglers were telling migrants that this created opportunity, not obstacles, for those seeking to cross the border. A digital advertising campaign tailored to a target migrant audience in Central and South America and the Caribbean was put together by the State Department and DHS to disseminate the message that the border is not open and individuals removed under Title 8 face at least a 5-year bar on re-entry and can face criminal prosecution if they try to cross again.
DHS reported Tuesday that since May 12 the department “has continued to experience a significant reduction in encounters at the Southwest Border” — though the department is “cognizant, however, that the conditions in the hemisphere that are driving unprecedented movements of people are still present and that the cartels and coyotes will continue to spread disinformation about any potential changes to policies at the border in order to put migrants’ lives at risk for profit.”
CBP has averaged 3,400 Border Patrol encounters in between ports of entry per day and fewer than 300 Office of Field Operations encounters per day in which the migrants did not make an appointment on the CBP One app at ports of entry.
The use of the CBP One app, which allows travelers and stakeholders to access CBP mobile applications and services, was expanded in January to let migrants approaching the southwest border make an appointment at a point of entry to seek an exemption to Title 42. 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.
To brace for the end of Title 42, CBP One transitioned to a new appointment scheduling system with additional time to request and confirm appointments — an effort to help those with limited connectivity — and prioritization of those who have waited longest for appointments. As of June 1, the number of available CBP One appointments has been expanded to 1,250 each day. The top nationalities making CBP One appointments have been migrants from Haiti, Mexico, and Venezuela.
The parole process established for Venezuelans in October and expanded in January to Cubans, Haitians, and Nicaraguans resulted in border encounters with those groups dropping 90 percent from December through March. Since the end of Title 42, an additional 23,000 vetted and sponsored nationals from those countries have arrived in the United States.
“Unlawful entries between ports of entry along the Southwest Border have decreased by more than 70 percent since May 11,” DHS said, adding that the department “has overseen significant expansions in lawful pathways even as we have repatriated a significant number of migrants.”
Mexicans have accounted for about 1,200 encounters per day, Hondurans for an average of 520 encounters per day, and Guatemalans for about 360 encounters per day.
Migrants encountered are given the option to voluntarily return to the country they came from because of the steep consequence of removal under Title 8. If they do not take that option and they do not claim fear of persecution in their home country, they will be removed immediately. If they do claim fear, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas emphasized just before the end of Title 42 that these asylum-seekers will face a “higher threshold” under the new rule by not taking a legal pathway to claim asylum.
That new asylum rule, crafted after receiving more than 50,000 public comments on the proposal, from DHS and the Department of Justice “presumes those who do not use lawful pathways to enter the United States are ineligible for asylum and allows the United States to remove individuals who do not establish a reasonable fear of persecution or torture in the country of removal,” DHS said. This does not apply to a noncitizen who received authorization to come to the U.S. to seek parole, those who scheduled a CBP One appointment to present themselves at a point of entry, those who establish that they were unable to use the CBP One app, those who sought and were denied asylum in another country, and unaccompanied children. “Individuals may also rebut the presumption by demonstrating exceptionally compelling circumstances,” DHS said.
DHS said Tuesday that nearly 14,000 credible fear referrals have been received by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services since the end of Title 42 and more than 11,500 credible fear interviews have been completed. “USCIS has already conducted a record number of interviews over the past three weeks, and these numbers will continue to increase as our processes further scale,” DHS said.
From May 12 through June 2, DHS reported, the department has repatriated more than 38,400 noncitizens under Title 8 authorities to more than 80 countries. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced Tuesday “multiple removal flights including to the Dominican Republic and Guatemala as part of dozens of flights conducted each week throughout the hemisphere and around the world.”
“Thousands more are being detained by CBP and ICE and processed by USCIS to assess their asylum claims under the new Circumvention of Lawful Pathways regulation,” DHS said. “Those found not to have a credible fear have been and will continue to be expeditiously removed.”