WASHINGTON — The Biden administration said Wednesday its new border policies are working, even as a coalition of Republican-led states challenges them in court.
President Joe Biden announced Jan. 5 the United States would start turning away Cubans, Haitians and Nicaraguans who cross the southwest border illegally. That builds on a similar approach initiated last year for migrants from Venezuela.
New penalties for those crossing illegally have been coupled with an agreement to grant entry to 30,000 asylum-seekers per month from those four nations – as long as those individuals apply from their home country.
Preliminary January figures show encounters of Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans, and Venezuelans crossing unlawfully between ports of entry at the southwest border declined 97% compared to December, the Department of Homeland Security announced Wednesday.
On Dec. 11, the 7-day average was 3,367 encounters per day, according to the department, but that number had fallen to 115 by Jan. 24.
“These expanded border enforcement measures are working,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement. “It is incomprehensible that some states who stand to benefit from these highly effective enforcement measures are seeking to block them and cause more irregular migration at our southern border.”
Texas’ Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton has repeatedly sued the Biden administration over its policy initiatives, particularly those related to immigration and the border.
Paxton is leading a 20-state coalition of states with Republican attorneys general challenging the latest policies.
They argue in a lawsuit filed in federal court that the administration has overstepped its authority and effectively created a new visa program without the support of any legislation from Congress.
The new policy allows as many as 360,000 individuals to be “paroled” into the United States for two years or longer and with eligibility for employment authorization, they state in the lawsuit.
Congress has limited the executive branch’s parole power, which is supposed to be used “on a case-by-case basis for urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit,” according to the suit.
They argue the parole program established by the administration fails to meet those criteria and was created without going through any kind of formal rule-making process.
Texas Republicans on Capitol Hill this week asked Biden to meet with them to discuss their solutions to the border. They also called on the federal government to reimburse the state for its attempts to address the crisis.
Texas has spent $4 billion on its border effort known as Operation Lone Star.
The Biden administration says the latest data highlight that expanding lawful, orderly pathways to enter the United States results in fewer people risking their lives to sneak into the country illegally.
The administration says the number of people from Venezuela trying to enter the United States illegally has dropped significantly since the new process for individuals from that country was unveiled.
Republicans have criticized the new approach, but some Democrats have taken issue with it as well, saying elements echo asylum policies implemented by the Trump administration.
Four Senate Democrats from New Jersey, California and New Mexico issued a joint statement after the policy was announced saying they were “deeply disappointed” the administration was expanding what is known as Title 42, which has been used to turn away migrants in the name of COVID-related public health concerns.
“We are pleased to see an increase in the access to parole for Cubans, Nicaraguans, Venezuelans, and Haitians, but this narrow benefit will exclude thousands of migrants fleeing violence and persecution who do not have the ability or economic means to qualify for the new parole process,” they said.
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