(NewsNation) — Officials say the number of migrants crossing into the U.S. has continued to drop since Title 42 expired, but border communities say they’re still struggling with the influx of migrants who arrived before that.
Title 42 is a public health policy that allows border agents to turn people away, effectively suspending the legal right to seek asylum. Originally written in the 1940s, the policy was reinstated by former President Donald Trump during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Many predicted a surge of migrants when Title 42 ended, but as of this moment, the number of border encounters has been on the decline.
Officials in Yuma, Arizona, said they saw a couple of hundred people crossing over Tuesday morning, but no substantial groups of migrants.
While the number of encounters may be down, Customs and Border Patrol said the number of people in detention was still exceeding the agency’s capacity. Roughly 19,000 people are currently in CBP custody, compared to a normal number of around 10,000.
Over the past few days, apprehensions have basically been cut in half. So while the agency is trying to quickly process detained individuals, they still have thousands of people waiting.
Whether the decrease in migrants is a sign the border crisis is over is open to debate. Some are concerned that lower encounter numbers are simply a sign that people are evading detection while border agents are working on processing those already in detention.
Yuma is a unique border crossing, in part because of who comes across the border. In Texas, agents primarily saw groups from South and Central American countries such as Venezuela. In Arizona, agents report seeing more migrant diversity, including those from so-called “special interest” countries like Uzbekistan and China.
There are people from around 140 different countries, including Peru, Brazil and the Dominican Republic. Many are hoping to get to states far from the border, including New York, New Jersey and Indiana.
Sources say that these migrants are flying directly into Mexico City, where they end up in the hands of smuggling organizations who direct them into certain areas and control where they are crossing. If they discover holes in border security, cartels will continue to direct migrants to cross through those openings.
Yuma County Supervisor Jonathan Lyons said they’ve seen people from countries they’ve never encountered before.
“We’re seeing people from countries who have never crossed here. Lots from Africa: This morning we found passports from Ghana, Mauritania, Senegal,” Lyons told NewsNation’s Ali Bradley.
Migrants know if they haven’t sought refuge in another country they passed through en route to the U.S., they’ll be removed under a new rule implemented by the Biden administration. A similar rule was attempted during the Trump administration, but it was struck down in court and the Biden rule is likely to face similar legal challenges.
Border agents say migrants have been discarding documents before they encounter any officials, in an effort to evade enforcement of the safe third country rule.
There has also been renewed construction on a border wall, started by former President Donald Trump. President Joe Biden said in the past that his administration wouldn’t add another inch. But in December, the administration laid out plans to finish parts of the wall already under construction in Arizona, California and Texas.
This came after former Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey erected a wall of shipping containers, which cost the state millions of dollars.