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US says migrant arrivals from Mexico drop by half after rule change

The number of migrants intercepted by U.S. authorities at the border with Mexico dropped by half following the end of a rule adopted during the covid-19 pandemic, the secretary of Homeland Security said Sunday.

“In the last two days, the U.S. Border Patrol saw a 50 percent drop in the number of encounters compared to what we experienced earlier in the week,” Alejandro Mayorkas told CNN’s “State of the Union.”

According to the official, about 6,300 migrants crossed the border into Mexico on Friday and 4,200 on Saturday, numbers he described as “remarkably low” compared to the 10,000 daily crossings recorded earlier in the week.

But he stressed that “it is still early” to make diagnoses. “We are only on day three,” he said, referring to the lifting of the so-called “Title 42” mechanism, Mayorkas added, avoiding any triumphalism.

Title 42, the rule that expired Thursday at 23H59 Washington time, allowed for the immediate removal of migrants without visas or documentation, including asylum seekers, in the name of the health emergency.

To prevent a massive influx of migrants after its lifting, the administration of Democratic President Joe Biden deployed thousands of police and military personnel in the nearly 3,200 km that separate the United States and Mexico, and approved new restrictions on the right to asylum.

Later Sunday, Biden said the Title 42 exit is going “a lot better than everybody expected,” he told reporters during a bike ride near his home in Rehoboth, Delaware.

But he cautioned that there is “a lot more work to do” and withdrew his call for “more help from Congress.”

The Democratic frontrunner noted that he has no plans “in the short term” to visit the southern border. “It would be disruptive,” he said.

Before showing up at the border, migrants must first obtain an appointment through a mobile asylum application centralization app, CBP One, or must have had their asylum application rejected in one of the transit countries.

Otherwise, they may be subject to expedited removal proceedings to their countries of origin and a five-year bar from entering U.S. territory.

“We are implementing our plan exactly as we planned,” Mayorkas told ABC. “We have already removed thousands of migrants – if they try to return, they will face the five-year ban and possible criminal prosecution,” he stressed.

Republican Congressman Mark Green, chairman of the Homeland Security Committee in the House of Representatives, questioned the numbers.

“This week has seen more crossings than any other week in our history,” he noted to CNN. He attributed it to an increase in the number of people crossing the border before Title 42 expired.

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