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January 2023, Volume 29, Number 1

DHS: Border, Title 42

A record 2.2 million unauthorized foreigners were encountered by Border Patrol agents just inside the US border with Mexico in FY22, and another 172,500 were detected at ports of entry, bringing total encounters to 2.4 million, up 37 percent from 1.7 million encounters in FY21. Mexicans and Central Americans were 57 percent of those encountered, and the number of Venezuelans, Cubans and Nicaraguans, over 571,000, exceeded the number from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

Some 2.5 million foreigners encountered since March 2020 were returned to Mexico under Title 42, a public health measure invoked to prevent the spread of covid. Many of the other foreigners encountered, over 15,000 a month, were allowed into the US to pursue asylum claims that can last several years because of the backlog of 750,000 asylum cases in immigration courts. Asylum seekers can work after 150 days in the US and their children can attend K-12 schools.

Over 187,000 Venezuelans were apprehended in FY22, including 33,000 in September 2022, prompting the Biden administration to return Venezuelans seeking asylum in the US to Mexico under Title 42. In exchange, Biden offered two-year humanitarian parole for up to 24,000 qualifying Venezuelans who find a US sponsor, apply online and arrive in the US at airports.

After the policy change, the number of Venezuelans encountered at the Mexico-US border fell sharply, from over 1,000 a day to less than 100 a day. Some 7.1 million Venezuelans left their country since 2015, and over 150,000 entered the US in 2022.

DHS in January 2023 expanded the Venezuela parole program to migrants from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua. Migrants who arrive illegally over the Mexico-US border will be expelled under Title 42, while 30,000 two-year work visas will be made available to migrants from Cuba, Haiti and Nicaragua that allows them to enter the US legally if they have a US sponsor.

In announcing expanded use of Title 42 removals and the parole program, President Biden said: “Do not just show up at the border. Stay where you are and apply legally from there.”

A federal judge concluded that the US government failed to show that Title 42 slowed the spread of covid and was thus “arbitrary and capricious” and ordered Title 42 expulsions to end by December 21, 2022. This decision was upheld by an appeals court, but the US Supreme Court in December 2022 ordered Title 42 to remain in place until it considers a case brought by 19 states seeking to extend Title 42.

Under Title 42, some 2.4 million foreigners who were encountered just inside the US border with Mexico have been expelled, over a million a year. Without Title 42, DHS predicted that encounters with unauthorized foreigners could jump from 8,000 a day to over 12,000 a day.

Title 42 removals to Mexico often result in re-entries. Between 2014 and 2019 Border Patrol agents reported an average recidivism rate of 14 percent, meaning that a seventh of those encountered had been arrested at least once before during the previous 12 months. With more migrants returned to Mexico under Title 42, the recidivism rate rose to 19 percent in September 2022, when 228,000 foreigners were encountered. There is no penalty for unauthorized re-entry for foreigners removed under Title 42.

CBP encountered 210,000 migrants in October 2022, putting FY23 on track for over two million encounters; 40 percent of those encountered were returned under Title 42. The Biden administration persuaded CBP head Chris Magnus to resign in November 2022 after less than a year in the job.

ICE. ICE agents made 143,000 arrests inside the US and deported 72,000 foreigners from the interior of the US in FY22, up from 74,000 and 59,000 in FY21 but below the 103,000 and 186,000 in FY20, the last year of the Trump administration. Under Biden, ICE made convicted criminals and recent arrivals the highest priority for apprehension and deportation, a policy challenged by several states that argued all unauthorized foreigners should be priorities for removal.

USCIS. Some 970,000 foreigners became naturalized US citizens in FY22, approaching the peak 1.05 million in FY08. The number of naturalized US citizens tripled from 7.6 million to 22 million between 1995 and 2019, which means that two-thirds of foreign-born US residents have naturalized. Nine million foreign-born US residents are eligible for naturalization.

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