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Unauthorized migrants crossings have gone down significantly since executive actions

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

At the Southern border, the Department of Homeland Security says encounters with migrants crossing without authorization have gone down significantly in the last few weeks. The White House says it's because of President Biden's decision to severely restrict asylum claims for most undocumented immigrants. NPR's immigration correspondent Jasmine Garsd has been reporting from the California-Mexico border, and she's there now. Hey, Jasmine.

JASMINE GARSD, BYLINE: Hi.

SHAPIRO: How much has undocumented immigration dropped?

GARSD: So to be clear, the numbers of unauthorized border crossings had already been declining for several months because Mexico has been scaling up enforcement. And then earlier this month, the President's executive actions went into place, and DHS says encounters at the border decreased by over 40%. And it hasn't been this low since January 2021. That's when President Biden took office. So here's DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas talking about this earlier today in Tucson, Ariz.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS: The president's actions are working because of their tough response to illegal crossings.

GARSD: DHS also says there's been double the number of expedited removals in the last three weeks. It has flown more than a hundred international repatriation flights to 20 countries.

SHAPIRO: Well, what are you seeing? I mean, you're there on the border.

GARSD: Yeah. As of last month, San Diego - this sector was the place for migrant crossings. But in the last two weeks, the areas where migrant camps usually are out in - by the hundreds waiting to ask for asylum - they look like ghost towns, makeshift tents flapping in the wind, little to no people. Once in a while, a handful of migrants do cross, and I have been able to talk to them.

SHAPIRO: And what did they tell you?

GARSD: So earlier this week, I ran into a group sitting in the middle of the desert on the California side waiting for help. Three small children and their parents - they told me they were waiting - they were running from - they were from the Mexican state of Michoacan, which has been plagued by cartel violence, and that's why they were fleeing. The mom's name was Jazmin Mora.

JAZMIN MORA: (Speaking Spanish).

GARSD: They told me they fled north to Tijuana. They waited for a month, and eventually, they became so terrified of local violence, they decided to just try and cross and ask for help. And I think their story is really emblematic of how this kind of border policy turns Mexican border towns into a sort of pressure cooker where people fleeing violence and poverty get stuck.

SHAPIRO: You said there were small kids in that family. Were they OK?

GARSD: One of the kids, a 7-year-old - he was seriously dehydrated. They'd been walking for 8 hours, and he seemed to be passing out. Humanitarian aid groups came and gave them first aid. And several hours later, they were picked up by Border Patrol.

Now, we're heading into a presidential debate tomorrow in which immigration will be front and center. And what I keep noticing is neither migrants nor locals had much to say about the border policies. Everyone I spoke to said they see it as politics as usual, no real lasting solutions.

SHAPIRO: That's NPR's immigration correspondent Jasmine Garsd reporting from the U.S.-Mexico border. Thanks, Jasmine.

GARSD: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Jasmine Garsd is an Argentine-American journalist living in New York. She is currently NPR's Criminal Justice correspondent and the host of The Last Cup. She started her career as the co-host of Alt.Latino, an NPR show about Latin music. Throughout her reporting career she's focused extensively on women's issues and immigrant communities in America. She's currently writing a book of stories about women she's met throughout her travels.