Migrant crossings along the US-Mexico border were down significantly last month compared with the same time period in pre-pandemic 2019, Biden administration officials said Thursday.
Speaking on a conference call with reporters Thursday afternoon, a senior administration official said the reason Customs and Border Protection data released on Wednesday showed a one per cent increase in Border Patrol migrant “encounters” is because many migrants who have previously been caught and expelled by Border Patrol officers are making repeat attempts to cross the border once more.
“The number of actual individuals who attempt to cross is down from April, and we’re a little over 20,000 lower than in May of 2019,” the official said, adding later that the number of families and unaccompanied minor children from the “Northern Triangle” region of Central America – Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador – who were encountered by Border Patrol officers last month fell by 31 per cent and 23 per cent compared with April 2020 totals.
Republicans have attempted to characterize the US-Mexico border as an out-of-control “open border” since President Joe Biden assumed office in January and immediately reversed a number of Trump administration policies meant to deter South and Central Americans from seeking asylum in the United States.
“The Biden administration continues to build a fair, orderly, and humane immigration system after four years of chaos and cruelty,” the official said.
Additionally, the official said the Biden administration has successfully processed asylum applications from more than 11,000 people who were forced to stay in unsanitary, dangerous camps in Mexico under Trump-era “Migrant Protection Protocols”, and is continuing the work of reunifying children with parents who were separated from them at the border under Trump’s “zero tolerance” policies.
And despite claims that the US-Mexico border has been “open” under Mr Biden, officials said the administration’s continued use of a provision in US immigration law that bars entry of noncitizens coming from a country where a communicable disease is present, known as Title 42, has allowed Border Patrol officials to quickly return migrants they encounter – other than children and some family units – to the Mexican side of the border.
The official said one of the Biden administration’s priorities is rebuilding the country’s asylum system, which they said was “decimated” under Mr Trump.
“The asylum system was demolished and we had insufficient policies, procedures and training in place to administer our immigration laws — and on top of that, there was no system in place to test or quarantine migrants with COVID-19 before the Biden administration,” the official said. “We’ve been moving swiftly to rebuild, and it’s going to take time”.