Border Patrol agents are already encountering more than 10,000 people per day trying to cross the Southern Border as the Title 42 pandemic-era border policies expire, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said Thursday. But the Biden Administration has a message: the new rules will be tougher, not easier.
“I want to be very clear: our borders are not open,” Mayorkas said in a press briefing at the White House.
Biden Administration officials want migrants to know that new asylum restrictions going into effect at midnight on Thursday come with harsher penalties for trying to enter the U.S. between ports of entry and a higher likelihood a person will be denied entry to the U.S.
Migrants who arrive at the Southern border without permission on Friday will be banned from coming to the U.S. for at least five years and could possibly be charged with a crime for trying to enter more than once. Under Title 42, a health emergency policy started during the Trump Administration under which the government could expel migrants without giving them a chance to file asylum claims, most were expelled without consequences and were able to try multiple times to reenter the U.S., dramatically increasing the number of encounters with Border Patrol agents. Mayorkas described the change in policy as “swift and immediate.”
But smugglers, looking to make more money, have told migrants that the end of the pandemic health emergency will make it easier to enter. That is not the case, Mayorkas said. “Smugglers care only about profits, not people. Do not risk your life and your life savings only to be removed from the United States if and when you arrive,” he said.
Read More: Migrant Aid Groups on the Border Are Stretched Thin as Title 42 Expires
To address the expected increase in people trying to cross, the Biden Administration has increased the number of Border Patrol and customs officers on duty at the border, deployed thousands of troops to provide support, and sent more than 1,000 asylum officers and judges on temporary duty to the Southwest border to work on quickly evaluating claims for protection.
Under the new asylum rules that go into effect Friday, if a person did not seek asylum in the country they moved through to get to the U.S. or didn’t use the online CBP One phone app, any claim they make for asylum in the U.S. will likely be rejected. Those changes will likely be challenged in court.
In recent months, the Biden Administration has allowed people fleeing Cuba, Haiti, Venezuela and Nicaragua to apply for entry to the U.S. before coming, because of ongoing crises in those countries. Those changes have reduced by 90% the number of people from those countries trying to cross the border between ports of entry, Mayorkas said. As of Friday, people from those four countries who do not use available pathways to request entry to the U.S. will be ineligible for asylum.
In addition to trying to convince migrants not to hire smugglers to come to the U.S., the Biden Administration says it is stepping up criminal investigations into international smuggling rings. “We are going after the smugglers” who “mislead and profit from vulnerable migrants,” Mayorkas said.
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