U.S. Customs and Border Protection 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.
The number of Venezuelans encountered continued its downward trend, though, as CBP hopes the temporary residency process that has resulted in that sharp drop will also have the same effect on migration flows from Cuba, Haiti, and Nicaragua.
Out of 251,487 total border encounters in December, 225,797 were unique — people not previously encountered by border authorities in the past 12 months. Thirty-six percent of those unique encounters were individuals from Cuba or Nicaragua. Meanwhile, individuals from Mexico or Central America accounted for 24 percent of unique encounters — down from 42 percent in December 2021.
“Venezuelans have dropped from roughly 1,100 a day the week before that process was announced, to roughly 100 a day consistently throughout December,” CBP reported.
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.
At the beginning of this month, 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 is one of the “concrete steps” 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.
“Cubans and Haitians who take to the sea and land on U.S. soil will be ineligible for the parole process and will be placed in removal proceedings,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement Jan. 18. “USCG and CBP maintain a continual presence with air and sea assets in the Florida straits and in the Caribbean Sea. Those attempting to enter unlawfully by sea will be interdicted and repatriated, consistent with U.S. law, policies and international treaty obligations.”
“Irregular maritime migration aboard unseaworthy or overloaded vessels is always dangerous, and often deadly,” he added. “We are steadfast in our commitment to saving lives and discouraging anyone from taking to the sea to irregularly migrate.”
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.
The process for Cubans, Nicaraguans, and Haitians went into effect on Jan. 6.
“The December update shows our new border enforcement measures are working. Even as overall encounters rose because of smugglers spreading misinformation around the court-ordered lifting of the Title 42 public health order, we continued to see a sharp decline in the number of Venezuelans unlawfully crossing our southwest border, down 82% from September 2022,” CBP Acting Commissioner Troy Miller said in a statement. “Early data suggests the expanded measures for Cubans, Haitians, and Nicaraguans are having a similar impact, and we look forward to sharing the additional data in the next update.”
Miller added that the “migration challenge” of people fleeing authoritarian regimes “is not unique to the United States.”
“There are 2.5 million Venezuelans now living in Colombia and 1.5 million in Peru; Brazil and Chile are hosting more than 350,000 Haitians, and the number of displaced Nicaraguans in Costa Rica has more than doubled in the last 12 months alone,” he said.
Sixty-four percent of all southwest border encounters in December were single adults. The number of family units encountered rose 22 percent from 63,316 in November to 77,088 in December.
CBP encountered 6.4 percent fewer unaccompanied children in December than in the previous month. On average, 570 children were in CBP custody per day last month.
Customs and Border Protection also expanded the use of the CBP One app, which allows travelers and stakeholders to access CBP mobile applications and services, 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.