15 May 2023
The administration of U.S. President Joe Biden says the number of migrants crossing the southern U.S. border with Mexico has unexpectedly fallen.
U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said border agents reported a 50 percent reduction in the number of migrants crossing the border since Thursday.
On that day, public health emergency measures in the U.S. came to an end.
Mayorkas spoke on national television Sunday. He told CNN: "The numbers we have experienced in the past two days are markedly down over what they were prior to the end of Title 42."
Title 42 is the part of U.S. law that deals with public health. Measures in that law permit public health officials to limit or stop entry into the United States by people who are not citizens if a disease is spreading in the country.
Myorkas credited criminal punishments for illegal migrants for the decrease in illegal entry. He said there were 6,300 encounters at the border on Friday and 4,200 on Saturday. But he warned that the new system has just started.
The earlier rules were put in place under former President Donald Trump when the spread of COVID-19 created a public health emergency. Trump also put in place limits on migrants seeking asylum in the U.S.
President Joe Biden told reporters in Rehoboth, Delaware, that he believed the border situation was "much better" than critics expected.
The Biden administration is requiring migrants to plan a visit with immigration offices through an app. They can also seek protection in one of the countries they are passing through on their way to the U.S. border. Those who do not follow the process, and are caught, will not be permitted to try again for five years.
Myorkas said: "There is 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."
Officials from communities near the U.S. border with Mexico say they had not seen the large numbers of migrants that they had feared would appear. However, in the weeks before the end of emergency powers, tens of thousands of migrants flooded border areas. Victor Trevino is mayor of Laredo, Texas. He said hospitals in his city were nearly full and an emergency declaration was in effect.
It remains unclear if Congress will pass any new legislation on the issue. Republican Party members in the House approved legislation that would continue the building of a border wall and require asylum seekers to first request protection outside the U.S. But the Republican bill is unlikely to be taken up by the Senate which is controlled by the Democratic Party.
I'm Mario Ritter Jr.
Sarah Lynch and Tyler Clifford reported this story for Reuters. Mario Ritter, Jr. adapted it for VOA Learning English.
Words in This Story
prior –adj. taking place earlier
encounter –n. (specific to government agency) the detention of a noncitizen who cannot be permitted to enter the country
app (application) –n. a computer program for a special purpose
unprecedented –adj. not done or experienced befor