- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 18, 2023

Most illegal immigrants at the border are still being caught and released after the end of Title 42, according to numbers obtained by The Washington Times that challenge Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas’ promises of “consequences.”

The overall number of people jumping the border is down to just a quarter of what it was at the beginning of last week, when 10,000 people a day were surging across the boundary with Mexico.

Arrivals at the border are still granted quick release in most cases, the CBP figures show.

In the five days after Title 42 ended on May 11, nearly 7 out of 10 unauthorized migrants processed by Customs and Border Protection were released, either on parole or with an immigration court summons known as a notice to appear.

That marked a slight increase from the days just before May 11.

CBP was sending more people to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, where they faced the possibility of formal deportation, but those numbers were tiny. CBP processed just 11% of migrants from May 11 through Tuesday.

“The vast majority of aliens are still being released into the United States, and the Biden administration is struggling to handle the flow. Even though it’s smaller, they’re still struggling to handle it,” said Andrew “Art” Arthur, a former immigration judge and now a legal fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies.

Title 42 was the pandemic emergency power that allowed the Homeland Security Department to quickly turn back border arrivals. It proved to be a major tool in blocking some of the unprecedented waves of illegal immigrants.

The authority expired with the rest of the pandemic emergency last week.

Mr. Mayorkas promised to replace Title 42 with punishments that could deter migrants even better.

“We will deliver consequences to individuals that arrive at our southern border irregularly,” the secretary said at the border last week.

Chief among those consequences is “expedited removal,” which can result in deportation in a couple of days.

Deportees who try to return to the U.S. illegally can be charged with felonies and face five-year bans on legal reentry.

The CBP data doesn’t detail how many people were put into expedited removal but shows how many were transferred to ICE, where they might face deportation. That rate went from about 5% of migrants in the days before the expiration of Title 42 to 11% afterward.

Mr. Mayorkas predicted that the border would devolve into worse chaos with the end of Title 42. Instead, the border situation improved immediately as his plans took hold. The number of illegal border crossings dropped from about 10,000 to 2,800 daily.

Homeland Security officials said the drop showed that their plans were already working.

“We continue to see encouraging signs that the measures we have put in place are working,” Assistant Secretary Blas Nunez-Nieto told reporters in a briefing on Wednesday.

Those arriving at the border still have a good chance of gaining a foothold in the U.S.

CBP’s internal data shows 37,394 “bookouts” from May 11 through Tuesday. Of those, 68% were either issued notices to appear and then released or were released via parole without notices to appear.

Another 14% were blocked, and 11% were sent to ICE. The remainder were referred to other agencies. Unaccompanied juveniles were sent to the Health and Human Services Department, and those with active warrants were sent to law enforcement agencies.

Customs and Border Protection didn’t respond to inquiries for this article.

Homeland Security declined to comment and instead referred to Mr. Nunez-Nieto’s briefing Wednesday.

In that briefing, Mr. Nunez-Nieto declined to talk about specific outcomes. He said the numbers were too preliminary but “thousands” had been flown back to their home countries in recent days.

He celebrated the major drop in newcomers and said even the composition of border arrivals had changed.

Before Title 42 expired, he said, agents encountered an average of 2,400 Venezuelans a day, followed by 1,900 Mexicans and 1,400 Colombians.

After Title 42 expired, the overall numbers and the composition were down. Mexicans started topped the list at about 1,000 a day, followed by 500 Colombians and 470 Guatemalans. Venezuelans fell down the list.

“It is still too soon to draw any firm conclusions here about where these trends will go,” he said.

Brandon Judd, a Border Patrol agent and president of the National Border Patrol Council, said the administration shouldn’t get too comfortable.

He said migrants appear to have been scared by the tough talk from the Biden administration but will increase in number once they realize that a majority are still being caught and released at the border.

“The cartels are going to coach people on exactly what they need to do to be released,” he said.

Mr. Judd said the migrants caught and released now largely comprise family units. Thanks to a court ruling and Biden administration policies, these migrants are difficult to hold in detention.

The drop in new arrivals, meanwhile, has been among single adults, who can be detained and put through expedited removal.

Another way to slice CBP’s data is to look at what happened to the population expelled under Title 42.

That was about 25% of the total of illegal immigrants CBP was processing before May 11.

It’s impossible to draw a one-to-one comparison, but given the movements of other numbers, it appears that about a quarter of the Title 42 population is now sent to ICE, a quarter is caught and released with notices to appear and half is pushed back across the boundary, only as a voluntary return or a “withdrawal” of application for admission.

“Voluntary return and withdrawal have replaced the minimal level of Title 42 exclusions,” Mr. Arthur said.

Mr. Nunez-Nieto, in briefing reporters Wednesday, was asked specifically about people released on notices to appear. He declined to give numbers but said those released have been “thoroughly vetted against our national security and public safety databases.”

The acting director of ICE told Congress last month that the U.S. has access to some countries’ data but can’t check others. That means agents and officers often do not know about criminal history in migrants’ home countries before releasing them.

“We don’t have access to many of those countries’ records,” acting Director Tae Johnson said.

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

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