US authorities made 233,740 immigration arrests along the Mexican border in November – one of the highest monthly totals on record – but only 66,984 “deportations” took place under Title 42, the latest CBP figures show. The policy was used in less than 29 percent of border arrests, the lowest rate since Title 42 was implemented in March 2020 at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
Under the Trump administration, CBP used Title 42 to deport more than 80 percent of border crossers, but that rate began to drop after President Biden took office. His administration exempted unaccompanied minors and blocked the implementation of the measure by exempting groups considered vulnerable.
Other factors in the decline of Title 42 were beyond the administration’s control.
For example, immigrants from Cuba and Nicaragua have arrived in the United States in recent weeks, many crossing into El Paso. They have overwhelmed CBP facilities and shelter capacity, leaving migrants sleeping on the streets in the bitter cold. CBP statistics show the agency took nearly 69,000 Cuban and Nicaraguan migrants into custody along the border in November, but less than 1 percent were turned away through Title 42.
The reason: Mexican authorities generally do not accept returns of migrants from those nations from the United States, and strained relations with Cuban and Nicaraguan authorities severely limit the United States’ ability to send deportation flights.
“I don’t see what will slow Cuban and Nicaraguan migration at this point,” said Adam Isacson, a border security analyst at the Washington Office on Latin America, a D.C. advocacy organization. Isaacson visited El Paso last week.
What is Title 42? Explaining Trump-era policy.
The November statistics show that the Biden administration is using Title 42 heavily on the one group that is easiest for CBP to handle without the measures: Mexican adults. Of the nearly 67,000 deportations carried out by CBP last month using Title 42, more than 60 percent were adult Mexican immigrants who otherwise could have been quickly returned — and may face criminal charges – under standard immigration procedures.
The number of Mexican immigrants taken into custody who are repeat offenders under Title 42 has increased dramatically because those who are deported can try again and again without fear of prosecution or imprisonment. Biden officials say that criminal prosecutions of these “itridical” crossings have increased and will do so more aggressively once Title 42 is removed.
Venezuelan migrants were the only group last month most affected by Title 42. The Biden administration responded to the record surge of Venezuelans by announcing a program in October that allows them to enter the United States legally through a “parole” program similar to a previous arrangement for refugees from Ukraine. The program used Title 42 as a deterrent by putting Venezuelan migrants at risk of deportation to Mexico if they cross the US southern border illegally instead of applying for legal entry.
Almost immediately their numbers dropped by more than 90 percent, according to CBP figures. “Venezuela has dropped from about 1,100 per day the week before that process was announced, to about 100 per day consistently throughout November,” CBP said in a statement.
Anticipating the possible end of Title 42, thousands of Venezuelan migrants have flocked to the Mexican border city of Ciudad Juárez, across from El Paso. A sudden increase in their numbers could put even more pressure on CBP and border towns in Texas, as well as New York City, Miami and other destinations for new arrivals in Venezuela.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) blamed the Biden administration’s policies on Tuesday for this “inexcusable crisis.” Abbott said he directed Texas National Guard troops to build additional barriers with razor wire and Humvees “to stop illegal crossings.”
Governor of Texas said he has sent more than 15,000 migrants on buses to New York, Washington and other cities with Democratic mayors. On Christmas Eve, three busloads of families unloaded in freezing temperatures at Vice President Harris’ residence in Washington. They lined up under blankets in the cold, and aid workers scrambled to find shelter beds to take them.
Migrants from Texas arrive by bus to Vice President Harris’ house on a cold Christmas night
Abbott’s show of force in El Paso appeared to have limited effect, with the migrants crossing the Rio Grande diverted around the soldiers further down the river to turn themselves in and ask for humanitarian shelter.
US agents made more than 53,000 arrests in November in CBP’s El Paso sector, more than anywhere else along the Mexican border, driven by an influx of Cubans and Nicaraguans. The agency’s latest statement blamed the “failure of communist regimes in Nicaragua and Cuba” for “contributing to the increased number of migrants trying to cross the border”.
In a 5-4 order Tuesday, the Supreme Court extended the Title 42 restrictions and scheduled hearings on the case in February. Five justices sided with Republican officials in 19 states, including Texas and Arizona, who tried to keep the policy.
Texas officials applauded the ruling. “Today, SCOTUS handed Texas and the US a huge victory by allowing Title 42 to remain in effect after Biden’s illegal attempt to terminate this vital policy,” the state’s attorney general, Ken Paxton (R), wrote on Twitter.
The Department of Homeland Security said in a statement after the ruling that Title 42 would remain in place, and “people should not listen to the lies of smugglers who take advantage of vulnerable migrants, putting lives at risk.”
“We will continue to manage the border, but we do so within the constraints of an immigration system that everyone agrees is broken,” the statement said.
The court said its ruling does not prevent the Biden administration from taking other Title 42-related actions.
Biden officials are preparing to announce new measures that would expand Venezuela’s parole program to other nations, according to three administration officials with knowledge of the plans who were not authorized to discuss them publicly. Those programs will require migrants to apply for legal entry through a mobile app, CBP One, and will disqualify migrants who try to cross illegally.
Tougher measures are also being discussed that would affect asylum seekers who do not seek asylum in Mexico or other countries they transit on the way to the US border, according to two people with knowledge of the discussions who were not authorized to speak to reporters.
The Trump administration tried to enact similar asylum restrictions in 2019 but was blocked in federal court.
Maria Sacchetti, Ann E. Marimow and Robert Barnes contributed to this report.