President Biden on Sunday was asked to assess the state of the US-Mexico border after the expiration of pandemic era policy Title 42 last week.
“Much better than you all expected,” Biden said when asked by reporters during a bike ride near his vacation home in Rehoboth, Delaware.
The president said he had no immediate plans to visit the border for doing so, he argued, would “just be disruptive.”
Biden’s comments come after US Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said border patrol agents have seen a 50% drop in the number of migrants crossing the border since Thursday.
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“The numbers we have experienced in the past two days are markedly down over what they were prior to the end of Title 42,” Mayorkas said on CNN’s “State of the Union” program. He said there were 6,300 border encounters on Friday and 4,200 on Saturday, but cautioned it was still early in the new regime.
Mayorkas credited the criminal penalties for migrants who illegally entered the country, which resumed under existing law after Title 42’s expiration, for the decrease in crossings. The COVID-era rule adopted under former President Donald Trump allowed officials to expel migrants quickly without an asylum process but did not impose penalties.
Biden told reporters Sunday he hoped border crossing would continue to go down but cautioned more work was needed to be done and help was needed from Congress.
The Biden administration’s post-Title 42 plan requires migrants to schedule an immigration appointment through an app or seek protection from countries they passed through on their way to the US border. If they do not follow the process and are caught entering the US illegally, they are not allowed to try again, even through legal means, for five years. There are prison terms for other violations.
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Officials from communities along the border agreed they had not seen the large numbers of migrants that many had feared would further strain US border facilities and towns.
“The amount of migrants we were expecting initially – the big flow – is not here yet,” Victor Trevino, a mayor of Laredo, Texas, told CBS News’ “Face the Nation.”
Despite the Biden administration’s assurances, multiple communities have been straining their resources to deal with an influx of migrants in recent weeks.
Last week, outgoing Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot issued an emergency declaration in response to illegal migrants being sent to her city by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.
An influx of migrants has also sparked chaos in New York City, from where Mayor Eric Adams has fought with upstate counties to send busloads of asylum seekers for temporary housing, sparking contentious legal battles.
The Texas Department of Public also said Saturday it was temporarily ending its partnership with the Austin Police Department.
Austin Police Chief Joseph Chacon told FOX 7 Austin that because Texas DPS is being deployed to border cities, their operations would temporarily cease in Austin. Texas DPS has been working with Austin authorities to investigate violent crimes and drug offenses.
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The need for securing the border was also highlighted by San Diego’s confirmation of an Afghani on the terror watch list who was arrested at the US-Mexico border after attempting to cross.
Fox News’ Andrea Vacchiano and Reuters contributed to this report.