The Biden administration is taking a number of actions in response to what appears to be the beginnings of an increase – as well as a shift – in migrant traffic at the southern border.
Numbers of overall migrant encounters at the southern border itself went down after the highs seen before the end of Title 42 in early May, confounding some predictions. There were over 200,000 encounters in May and that dropped to around 144,000 in June.
However, as the Biden administration touted that decrease in numbers as a sign that its post-Title 42 strategy is working, numbers have reportedly been increasing. The Washington Post reported last week that initial numbers show a 30% increase in July.
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Migrants are seen congregated in an outdoor fenced-in enclosure outside of the Ajo Border Patrol Station, Saturday, July 22, 2023, as the state continues its record-setting heat wave. (Joe Rondone/Imagn)
Additionally, there are signs of a shift in traffic from Texas to Arizona. CBS News reported that the Tucson Sector has seen a 134% increase from June, in a region that sees blistering heat and extreme conditions.
A Customs and Border Protection (CBP) spokesperson told Fox News Digital on Saturday that the agency has been working to address “large numbers of migrants” crossing into the desert area near Ajo — a typically desolate and quiet part of the border.
“The U.S. Border Patrol has surged personnel and transportation resources to respond to the increase in encounters in the area – some of the hottest, most isolated, and dangerous area of the southwest border – where individuals have been callously sent by smuggling organizations to walk for miles, often with little or no water,” a spokesperson said.
Media outlets had highlighted the station in Ajo, where a chain-linked fence had been put up around an area holding migrants — which some described as a “cage.” CBP stressed that only adults were held there in shade and are monitored, and just until they can be transported to larger better-equipped facilities.
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“Border Patrol has prioritized the quick transporting of noncitizens encountered in this desert environment, which is particularly dangerous during current weather conditions, to USBP facilities where individuals can receive medical care, food and water. USBP has utilized outdoor shaded areas only when necessary and for very short times while they await onward transportation to larger facilities,” the spokesperson said.
More broadly across the border, there are signs that administration is moving to brace for any increase in migrants.
US Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas speaks during the daily press briefing in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on May 11, 2023. ((Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
The Pentagon announced last week that just 1,100 of the 1,500 active-duty troops are being sent back to home base, and that it had approved an extension of 400 to the end of the month.
The troops had been deployed to help Customs and Border Protection (CBP) with processing ahead of the expected post-Title 42 surge.
Separately, Fox News Digital obtained a DHS memo last week sent internally seeking volunteers to aid with processing. The internal memo sent to staff by acting Deputy Secretary Kristie Canegallo says that while there have been “positive trends” at the border since the end of Title 42 in May, “we need to remain vigilant and prepared for evolving trends and future increases in migration.”
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“To support this critical mission, I ask that you consider registering to be part of the DHS Volunteer Force (VF),” it said. A DHS official said those programs have been “incredibly successful,” and the department is encouraging more of the workforce to participate and that it ensures the agency’s operational readiness means filling critical roles before they are needed.
That memo came as Fox News Digital also reported that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) special agents are having their numbers increased at the border from 60 to 200 as part of Operation Expanded Impact. Agents are being deployed to key sectors in Texas, Arizona and California.
A DHS spokesperson told Fox News Digital then that the numbers of those crossing across the border illegally are still down compared to before Title 42’s May 11 halt.
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“Unlawful border crossings have gone down since our border enforcement plan went into effect and remain well below the levels seen while Title 42 was in effect,” the spokesperson said. “We remain vigilant and expect to see fluctuations, knowing that smugglers continue to use disinformation to prey on vulnerable individuals.”
The agency noted that divisions across the department work collectively and will adjust operations based on a variety of factors. Asylum officers have also increased by 33%, and the agency is now seeking to complete the initial credible fear interview within several days of a claim made by migrants. And it will continue to evaluate operations and work with other governments to address changes in migration flows.