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A senior Department of Homeland Security official predicts the number of migrant encounters at the southern border will decline once the Biden administration lifts the Title 42 public health order later this month, despite earlier forecasts. of a massive increase in migrants in the coming months.
Blas Nunez-Neto, acting assistant secretary for border and immigration policy, was questioned by Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., during a Senate Homeland Security Committee hearing about the ‘Title 42 stop. The order has been used since March 2020 to deport a majority of migrants at the southern border due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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“Title 42 has had a really interesting effect on migration, in that, due to the number of repeat border crossings we see, it has actually inflated our numbers at the border,” Nunez-Neto said.
He said data shows Title 42 has caused an increase in migration, particularly from Mexico, due to the lack of consequences migrants face for attempting to enter the United States while the order is in effect.
“So eliminating it will, in your opinion, reduce the number of illegal immigrants?” Hawley asked.
Nunez-Neto claimed that as the Biden administration moves to accelerated withdrawal instead of Title 42, there will be a drop in border encounters. Expedited deportation is a process used to deport recent migrants unless they apply for asylum and pass a screening.
“I think over time, once we start to reimpose significant immigration consequences on people at the border through our use of expedited removal, especially for single adults and especially for those from Mexico, you’re going to see a decrease,” Nunez-Neto said. . The exchange was first noted by The Washington Post.
Hawley was unconvinced.
“That’s news, ladies and gentlemen,” Hawley marveled. “You still clearly want to rescind Title 42, and you believe rescinding it will reduce illegal immigration across the border.”
The statement marks a change in tone from the administration, which outlined how it plans to deal with an increase in migration. He said he expected up to 18,000 migrant encounters a day once the order was stopped. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has also said it expects arrivals to potentially triple.
However, officials and some immigration experts have said for months that once Title 42 ends, there may be a decline in encounters due to a decrease in repeat entry attempts. Migrants who are deported due to Title 42 are not punished for attempting to cross the border, so many will make multiple attempts. As a result, this inflates the number of border encounters each month.
Customs and Border Protection said of 221,303 migrant encounters in March, only 159,900 were “one-time” encounters. Of the 221,303, 28% had at least one prior encounter in the last 12 months, compared to a recidivism rate of 14% between fiscal year 2014-2019.
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This has led to speculation that when Title 42 falls, the total number of encounters could drop – even as the number of individual migrants arriving at the border increases.
Republicans and some Democrats have urged the Biden administration to reverse the course of the end of Title 42, warning that this will not only encourage more migrants to flock to the border, but lead to significantly higher numbers being released into the country.
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The Biden administration has declared Title 42 a public health order, not an immigration order, and called on Congress to pass immigration reforms instead. Democrats introduced an administration-backed bill last year that would provide a massive amnesty for millions of illegal immigrants, but it flopped due to a lack of Republican support.
A number of Democrats signed a bill that would prevent the Biden administration from ending the order until 60 days after the Centers for Disease Control ended its public health emergency for COVID-19 and have a proper plan in place.
Meanwhile, 21 Republican states have filed lawsuits to block the order’s halt. A hearing in the case is scheduled for next week.
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