Migrant crossings at border dip as U.S. ends Title 42

STORY: The Biden administration says migrant crossings at the U.S.-Mexico border have unexpectedly fallen, not risen, after the end of Title 42, and they credit that to a return to policies that penalize illegal entry.

After the so-called Title 42 immigration program expired last week, there's been a reinstatement of criminal penalties at the border.

Title 42 allowed officials to expel migrants quickly without an asylum process but did not impose punishment.

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas:

“In fact, in the past two days, the U.S. Border Patrol has seen an approximately 50% drop in the number of people encountered at the Southern border as compared to the numbers earlier this week before Title 42 came to an end midnight on Thursday.”

The group of 15 migrants was among the first to be turned away after the order expired.

A Guatemalan woman told Reuters she was told to turn herself in to Immigration at a check point on a bridge connecting the U.S. and Mexico.

Under a new policy, people who are caught entering the U.S. illegally will be deported and barred from trying again, even through legal means, for five years.

The White House now faces a lawsuit mounted by the American Civil Liberties Union, who claim the latest restrictions violate U.S. laws and international agreements.

Mayorkas denied those accusations, saying the government has led “the greatest expansion of lawful pathways ever” for people seeking asylum.

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas:

“An individual must access those lawful pathways that we have made available to them. If they have not, then they must have sought relief in one of the countries through which they have traveled and been denied. And if they haven't done either, it's not a ban on asylum, but they have a higher threshold of proof that they have to meet. That is a presumption of ineligibility that can be overcome.”

Meanwhile holding facilities, hospitals and towns at the border have been left to struggle after thousands of migrants crossed into U.S. territory last week before the end of Title 42.

There’s also been little bipartisan movement toward a solution in Congress.

Just before the expiration, House Republicans approved legislation that would resume construction of a border wall and require asylum seekers to apply for U.S. protection outside the country, but the bill is unlikely to be taken up by the Democratic-controlled Senate.