The number of migrants encountered at the Southwest border decreased by 14 percent in January from the previous month, signaling that an alarming rise in asylum-seekers at the border may be leveling off, the latest data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection indicate, USA Today reports. More than one-fourth of those encounters were repeat-crossers, pointing to an increase in migrants who were expelled under policies such as the "Remain in Mexico" program or Title 42, which returns migrants to Mexico to fight the spread of coronavirus, and attempted to get back into the U.S. to seek asylum.
In January, Southwest border officials encountered 153,941 migrants, down from 179,219 in December – the first month-to-month decline since September. Since the start of this fiscal year on Oct. 1, agents have encountered 672,838 migrants. Though the January decline wasn't steep, it may suggest that President Biden's efforts to spread a message to Central American migrants that the U.S.-Mexico border is not open may be getting through, said Tony Payan of the Center for the United States and Mexico at Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy. "It's good progress for a single month," Payan said. "The deterrent effect might be finally paying off." Last year, Biden and members of Congress proposed a $4 billion relief plan to Central America aimed at tamping down corruption and creating refugee processing centers to discourage migrants from traveling to the U.S.-Mexican border.