The number of crossings along the U.S. southern border has dropped by 50% since pandemic-related asylum restrictions expired on Thursday, contradicting earlier fears that there would be a surge, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said Sunday.
U.S. Border Patrol counted roughly 6,300 crossings on Friday and 4,300 on Saturday, down from more than 10,000 before Title 42 expired on Thursday night, Mayorkas told told CNN’s Dana Bash.
It’s still “too early” to say whether the number of crossings has peaked, he said, while crediting harsher penalties for unlawful entry for the immediate drop.
“There’s a lawful, safe and orderly way to arrive in the United States that is through the pathways that President Biden has expanded in an unprecedented way and then there’s a consequence if one does not use those lawful pathways,” he said.
The newly imposed penalties for unlawful entry include asylum ineligibility, expedited removal, and barred reentry into the U.S. for at least five years, Homeland Security said in a fact sheet on the return to Title 8, which was in place prior to the pandemic. Title 8 went back into effect on Friday.
“The return to processing under Title 8 is expected to reduce the number of repeat border crossings over time, which increased significantly under Title 42,” the fact sheet states.
Federal and state officials have been bracing for a potential surge in migrants following Title 42’s expiration, all while handling significantly high numbers of crossings. Some 10,000 migrants were stopped on Tuesday, a U.S. official told The Associated Press. This was slightly below the 11,000 maximum expected after Thursday.
Multiple migrants in El Paso, Texas, reportedly told NBC News last week that the recent rise in crossings was due to rumors online and in Mexico that the best time to cross was before Title 42’s expiration.
“There was a lot of talk that after the end of Title 42, it was going to be very difficult to come into the United States,” a 30-year-old woman, who had traveled from Venezuela with her husband and three children, told the network from a shelter in El Paso.