Encounters at the border have dropped sharply in the few days since the lifting of Title 42, a pandemic-era policy that allowed for the swift expulsion of immigrants without allowing them to seek asylum.
Title 42 was lifted Thursday at midnight, and while many were expecting to see an uptick of migrants at the border, that has not materialized in the first few days.
“Over the last three days, we have seen approximately a 50 percent decrease in encounters compared to the days leading up to the end of Title 42,” Blas Nuñez-Neto, chief operating officer at U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said on a Monday call with reporters.
“It is still early, though, and we are mindful that smugglers will continue to look for ways to take advantage of the change in border policies.”
The drop comes from just an early snapshot at the border, one that officials said saw no change in the immediate hours following the lifting of Title 42.
Migration this year, while slightly trailing 2022 figures, is still high. There were roughly 190,000 encounters at the border in March, the most recent month for which data is available.
Nuñez-Neto pointed to high migration levels across Latin America.
“While Title 42 has ended, the conditions that are causing hemispheric migration at unprecedented levels have not changed. We continue to see more displaced people in the hemisphere than we have in decades, but we are working closely with our foreign partners to address these movements,” he said.
The administration has worked to address high migration numbers both by increasing lawful immigration pathways and limiting asylum.
While the shifting border policies allow migrants to seek asylum at the border, a new Biden administration regulation hews closely to a Trump-era policy by largely blocking approval to any asylum-seeker who does not first apply for asylum and get denied in another country along their route. Beyond those traveling throughout Latin America to reach the U.S., the rule will also block those who cannot secure tourism visas or book a direct flight to the U.S.
The administration has rolled out a program for Cubans, Venezuelans, Nicaraguans and Haitians that allows temporary entrance to the U.S., but the program is limited to those who can secure a U.S.-based financial sponsor and have a valid passport.