US reports drop in migrants from countries in Biden initiative

Release of the data follows a week of backlash from Republican lawmakers over record-high migration levels reported in December

Immigrant families from Venezuela arrive in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, after being expelled Jan. 9 from the United States.  (John Moore/Getty Images)
Immigrant families from Venezuela arrive in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, after being expelled Jan. 9 from the United States. (John Moore/Getty Images)
Posted January 25, 2023 at 6:29pm

Border agents have reported a dramatic drop in encounters with migrants from Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Haiti in recent weeks, as Republican lawmakers ramp up criticism of the administration’s border policies.

There has been a roughly 97 percent decline in encounters with migrants from those four nations who crossed the U.S.-Mexico border without authorization between December and January, according to Biden administration officials who briefed reporters Wednesday on the condition of anonymity.

On Dec. 11, the seven-day average of daily encounters with migrants from the four countries was 3,367. But on Tuesday, that seven-day average was down to 115, the administration officials said.

The administration officials attributed the reduction in border crossings to the expansion earlier this month of a migration initiative that each month would allow 30,000 migrants from those four countries to apply for a temporary immigration status known as parole.

“These expanded border enforcement measures are working,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a news release Wednesday.

The parole program was also paired with additional immigration enforcement, in a “carrot-and-stick” style approach. Under the program, 30,000 migrants from those countries could also be expelled back to Mexico each month under a pandemic-related order, called the Title 42 policy, if they crossed the border without authorization.

The program was initially limited to Venezuelans, but was expanded to include migrants from Cuba, Haiti and Nicaragua in early January. According to the administration officials, roughly 1,700 migrants from those three additional countries have entered the U.S. in the last three weeks through the program, though many more have been approved.

Republican backlash

The release of the data follows a week of backlash from Republican lawmakers over record-high migration levels reported in December, which were released publicly Friday and showed more than 250,000 unauthorized border crossings that month alone.

Republican leaders of the House Judiciary and Oversight and Accountability committees have announced they will hold border-related hearings in early February. The Judiciary Committee blared its intent to hold more, calling the upcoming hearing, “The Biden Border Crisis: Part 1.”

And House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-La., told reporters Wednesday morning that House Republicans plan to put together a “big border security package” that would go through the Judiciary and Homeland Security committees.

The data release also comes one day after a group of 20 Republican-led states sued the Biden administration over the parole component of the program. The states argued in their suit, which was filed in a Texas federal court, that the program “amounts to the creation of a new visa program” that will allow hundreds of thousands of migrants to enter the country per year who would not have otherwise been eligible.

Mayorkas, in the news release, said that it is “incomprehensible that some states who stand to benefit from these highly effective enforcement measures are seeking to block them and cause more irregular migration at our southern border.”

An administration official also told reporters that the Mexican government’s “willingness to make the independent decision to accept returns of third-country nationals has been contingent on the U.S.’ ability to provide lawful pathways for individuals from those counties to come directly to the United States.”

“If our ability to provide those lawful pathways is impacted, Mexico may revisit this independent decision they made,” the official said.