Joe Biden Claims a Victory on Southern Border Crossings

The number of people crossing the Southwest land border into the United States dropped in June, despite fears that the end of Title 42 would lead to a growing influx of migrants, according to the latest data by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Border Patrol.

CBP reported a total of 144,571 encounters—including with unaccompanied children, single adults, and families—at the Southwest border in June, the lowest level in two years and the lowest since the beginning of the Biden administration. A month earlier, in May, there were a total of 206,702 encounters.

Fewer encounters were only reported in January 2021, when 78,414 migrants crossed the border, according to CBP. This number includes people who had a CBP One appointment and those who did not.

Border Patrol recorded 99,545 encounters between ports of entry along the Southwest border, a 42 percent decrease from May.

Migrants Southwest border
Migrants walk along the banks of the Rio Grande after illegally crossing over into the U.S. on June 14, 2023. The number of people crossing the Southwest land border dropped in June, according to CBP. Brandon Bell/Getty Image

The data show that fears that the end of Title 42, the pandemic-era law which allowed American authorities to immediately expel people who had crossed the border into the country, would have driven more migrants to the U.S. were misplaced—and that President Joe Biden's new migration policies are working.

"I think the Biden administration has applied a range of different policies that include both carrots and sticks for migrants," Earl Anthony Wayne, a former ambassador to Mexico (2011-2015), a professor and co-chair of the board of the Mexico Institute at the Woodrow Wilson Center, and a diplomat in residence at American University, told Newsweek.

"This had the effect of slowing people down from coming through Mexico to the border that has encouraged people to not try to cross illegally," he said.

The Biden administration, Wayne said, has given migrants hope to enter the country legally when they apply for consideration for asylum from other countries than the U.S., like Mexico.

On the other hand, if people don't follow the legal steps and cross the border illegally, they can be expelled and banned from reentry for five years—a harsh incentive for migrants to avoid crossing illegally.

The Mexican government has been cooperating in encouraging migrants to go away from the border, Wayne said.

"They're also absorbing a lot of these migrants around the country in Mexico, some of whom are applying for asylum in Mexico—whatever their ultimate intentions may be, they're doing that," he said.

"And then the U.S. has continued to try to have momentum to follow up on efforts to build regional cooperation, which it's all part of the same broader policy," he added. "I think that this combination of carrots and sticks has significantly reduced the numbers of people trying to cross irregularly, in the short term."

Joe Biden
President Joe Biden speaks in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on July 20, 2023. The number of migrants crossing the Southwest land border into the U.S. decreased to its lowest level in two years after Title 42 ended. MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images

The CBP celebrated the drop in migrant crossings in June, saying in a statement: "Our sustained efforts to enforce consequences under our longstanding Title 8 authorities, combined with expanding access to lawful pathways and processes, have driven the number of migrant encounters along the Southwest border to their lowest levels in more than two years. We will remain vigilant."

Troy A. Miller, CBP Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Commissioner, said in the same statement: "As our June statistics show, CBP's mission is vast, and thanks to the dedication of our personnel and Federal partners, we are delivering results that keep the American people safe: ensuring border security, seizing drugs, stopping the flow of illicit weapons, rescuing people in distress, facilitating lawful travel and trade, and stopping the entry of harmful agricultural pests."

But Wayne says that this is a short-term victory for Biden.

"There are several court cases in the United States questioning the migration policy—from the liberal side, these cases say that this is too restrictive and it is not treating people seeking asylum fairly, and they're saying that breaks the law," he said.

"From the more conservative side of the political spectrum, there are those who say that even under this approach, there are still too many people that are being allowed to come into the United States pending their asylum claims."

One thing that "it's not likely to happen but should happen" if there's to be a real solution to the migration problem in the U.S., Wayne said, is "significant reform in the U.S. immigration law" and"more resources put in to help make the process of adjudicating these [asylum] claims go more quickly and more effectively."

Wayne said that in order to do these, there's a need for more judges and more facilities at the border. "There still needs to be an expansion to personnel, all of which is going to require congressional action."

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