The Biden administration on Wednesday said that new border measures, which were expanded earlier this month, were already having an effect to help reduce the record migrant numbers encountered in December — a day after a lawsuit from 20 states claimed the program is unlawful.
The administration has expanded a humanitarian parole program first introduced for Venezuelans in October to include Cubans, Nicaraguans and Haitians. The program allows up to 30,000 migrants to fly in each month as long as they had not entered the U.S. or Mexico illegally, have a U.S. sponsor and pass background checks. It’s combined with an expansion of Title 42 expulsions to include those nationalities.
The moves were in response to a significant increase in encounters from those nations alongside a massive surge in migration that has dogged the Biden administration since taking office. In December, there were more than 251,000 migrant encounters, marking a new highest month that outpaced even the busiest month of FY 2022 — which overall saw a record 2.3 million encounters.
But in a statement, the Department of Homeland Security said that since then, initial numbers for January show a 97% drop in encounters of those four nationalities — and January is on track to see the lowest number for border encounters since the start of the crisis in February 2021.
The agency said that encounters from the four countries had dropped from an average of 3,367 a day in December to just 115 a day in January, and touted the numbers as proof that the measures were working.
The numbers were released a day after 20 Republican states sued the administration over the program, claiming it is unlawful.
“These expanded border enforcement measures are working,” said 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.”
That lawsuit, filed by Texas and America First Legal in the Southern District of Texas, and joined by 19 additional states, argues that the program is illegal given the “exceptionally limited” parole power available to the federal government. The lawsuit focuses on the limits placed on parole by Congress that says the authority is to be used on a “case-by-case basis for urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit” — a standard that the states say the program fails to meet.
“The parole program established by the Department fails each of the law’s three limiting factors. It is not case-by-case, is not for urgent humanitarian reasons, and advances no significant public benefit. Instead, it amounts to the creation of a new visa program that allows hundreds of thousands of aliens to enter the United States who otherwise have no basis for doing so. This flouts, rather than follows, the clear limits imposed by Congress,” the lawsuit reads.
The states say the program is also unlawful as it did not engage in the notice-and-comment rulemaking required by the Administrative Procedure Act, and that states “face substantial irreparable harms from the Department’s abuse of its parole authority, which allow potentially hundreds of thousands of additional aliens to enter each of their already overwhelmed territories.”
“Every state in America, especially border states like Texas, is being crushed by the impacts of illegal immigration,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a statement to Fox News Digital. “The Biden open borders agenda has created a humanitarian crisis that is increasing crime and violence in our streets, overwhelming local communities, and worsening the opioid crisis. This unlawful amnesty program, which will invite hundreds of thousands of aliens into the U.S. every year, will only make this immigration crisis drastically worse.”
But the administration has been pushing back against criticism of its handling of the southern border from Republicans in Congress and elsewhere — including pointing to Republican lawmakers’ refusal to back a sweeping immigration bill and other requests for funding by the administration.
President Biden on Friday accused Republicans of attempting to use immigration to score “political points” and that was echoed by an administration official on Wednesday who condemned the lawsuit against the parole program.
“This lawsuit once again shows that extremist elected officials don’t want real solutions; they would rather just keep using immigration to try to score political points. They keep claiming we need to secure the border, but then turn around and try block nearly every measure we take to do just that,” the official said.
“They’ve blocked comprehensive immigration reform and funding for border security, and are now trying to block a program that has dramatically reduced the number of migrants attempting to enter the country illegally all while providing a safe, lawful, and orderly pathway for migration for people fleeing communism or economic collapse,” the official said. “If these states succeed, their latest stunt will lead to more illegal immigration.”