(CNN) — Daily migrant encounters along the US-Mexico border have dropped by more than half in January compared to last month, a Homeland Security official tells CNN, citing the expansion of a Trump-era Covid restriction and recently launched programs to legally migrate to the US.
Last month, border authorities wrestled with a spike in border encounters, averaging around 7,000 daily, ahead of the anticipated end of Title 42, a public health authority that's been in place since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Supreme Court put a temporary hold on the termination of Title 42, leaving it in place for now. But the migrant influx underscored the challenges facing the Biden administration amid mass migration in the Western Hemisphere. While daily arrests have dropped, it's unclear how long the trend will hold as people continue to face poor conditions in their home countries.
Over the course of his presidency, Joe Biden has faced changing migration patterns that have stretched federal and local resources. The issue in turn has increasingly become a political vulnerability for the administration — drawing fierce criticism from Republicans and Democrats — and been a key point of discussion with nations to the south, primarily Mexico.
Biden met with Mexican President Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for the North American Leaders' Summit earlier this month, where migration was a key topic of discussion.
Just days before the visit to Mexico, the Biden administration expanded a humanitarian parole program to accept up to 30,000 migrants per month from Haiti, Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Cuba. The program provides a legal pathway for those nationalities to enter the US instead of crossing the border. The administration also made those nationalities eligible for Title 42, meaning they can now be turned away by authorities if they don't apply for the program.
Officials have cited the parole program and expansion of Title 42 as among the reasons for the drop in daily encounters this month.
Biden alluded to a potential drop in crossings while in Mexico, saying: "This is going to reduce the number of people legally trying to cross — illegally trying to cross the border."
"We're trying to make it easier for people to get here, opening up the capacity to get here, but not have them go through that godawful process," he added, referring to the treacherous journey north migrants often take.
Immigrant advocates, though, have shared concerns about the program, arguing that it may only serve those with connections to the US since a sponsor is needed and because it means more people can be turned away under Title 42.
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