Mexico will increase efforts to stop U.S.-bound migrants as Title 42 ends, U.S. officials say

The Mexican government is planning to deploy law enforcement personnel to its border with Guatemala and other migration corridors in Mexico to help the Biden administration reduce the number of migrants crossing into the U.S. unlawfully, senior American officials said Tuesday.

The operations to stop or slow down U.S.-bound migrants before they reach America’s southern border are expected to take place over the next “several days,” according to a senior Biden administration official who briefed reporters on Tuesday.

“Mexico has committed to undertaking a pretty robust law enforcement operation on their southern border and on the transit routes to the northern border that we think will help,” the U.S. official added, referring to what’s expected to be a historically high number of migrant crossings along the U.S.-Mexico border following the expiration of Title 42 public health restrictions later this week.

The operation is one of several steps the government of Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has agreed to take to help the U.S. manage and deter the unprecedented number of unauthorized arrivals along the southern border that has bedeviled President Biden’s administration.

Last week, after a meeting in Mexico City with top U.S. officials, the Mexican government agreed to continue accepting non-Mexican migrants deported by the U.S. A senior U.S. official confirmed Tuesday that Mexico had agreed to continue accepting up to 30,000 deportees from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela per month after Title 42 lapses, as long as the U.S. continued to accept the same number of migrants from those four countries under a sponsorship initiative launched in January.

It’s unclear how many Mexican law enforcement officials will be deployed as part of the actions to impede migrants from heading north to the U.S. A representative of the Mexican Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Mexico’s crackdown on migrants illustrates that country’s increasingly crucial role in the Biden administration’s border management strategy, and the operation is part of a broader effort by the U.S. to persuade other countries to reduce irregular migration. The U.S. recently enlisted the help of Colombian and Panamanian officials to curb migrant smuggling near Panama’s Darién Gap, which tens of thousands of migrants have crossed in the past year on their way to the U.S.

While the Mexican government has played a key role in U.S. border measures for decades, under Democratic and Republican administrations, its influence has grown amid record arrivals of migrants from outside Mexico and Central America along the southern border, including from countries like Cuba and Venezuela that limit or reject U.S. deportations.

On Tuesday, Mr. Biden and López Obrador held a call focused on their governments’ strategy to deal with the termination of Title 42, which Mr. Biden acknowledged would likely lead to “a chaotic situation” along the southern border, at least for “a while.”

Title 42, a pandemic-era order that has allowed the U.S. to expel hundreds of thousands of migrants without hearing their asylum claims, is set to end on Thursday at midnight due to the expiration of the COVID-19 public health emergency, one of the legal underpinnings of the policy.

The looming halt to the Title 42-linked expulsions has already fueled a sharp increase in border crossings. In recent days, Border Patrol agents have recorded over 8,000 daily migrant apprehensions and they are bracing for more than 10,000 migrants to be taken into custody each day once Title 42 lifts, which would be twice the number of daily crossings seen in March.

To blunt the potentially historic spike in migration, the Biden administration has unveiled a series of measures designed to discourage illegal entries by expanding legal channels for migrants to enter the U.S. and increasing the consequences they could face if they attempt to enter without permission.

On Wednesday, the administration will publish a regulation to disqualify migrants from asylum if they cross the southern border unlawfully without first asking for protection in a third country, like Mexico, en route to the U.S. Those barred from asylum under the rule could face swift deportation to their home country or Mexico, as well as a five-year ban from the U.S.

Officials have increased the number of deportation flights so they can deport larger numbers of migrants to Central America and other Latin American countries like Colombia, Ecuador and Peru, a senior U.S. official said. Moreover, up to 1,000 asylum officers are ready to start conducting the interviews needed to determine whether migrants should be deported under the new asylum rules, the official added.

The Biden administration is also betting that some migrants will opt to wait for a chance to enter the U.S. legally under several programs it has established in recent months.

Earlier this month, the administration announced it would set up processing centers in Latin America, starting in Colombia and Guatemala, to screen migrants for eligibility to be resettled in those countries, the U.S., Canada or Spain. On Tuesday, U.S. officials said the administration intends to ultimately set up roughly 100 of these centers and that it was planning to dispatch dozens of U.S. caseworkers to vet migrants.

The Biden administration is also continuing a program that allows up to 30,000 Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans, and Venezuelans to fly to the U.S. on a monthly basis if they have U.S.-based financial sponsors. More than 100,000 migrants have already entered the country under the initiative, a senior U.S. official said Tuesday.

Under a separate program, hundreds of migrants in Mexico have been allowed to enter the U.S. each day after securing appointments through a mobile app to be processed at ports of entry along the southern border. Officials are planning to increase the number of daily appointments to 1,000 after Title 42 expires.

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