NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – Earlier this year, the federal government ended a pandemic-era border policy called Title 42. At the time, there was a wide range of speculation on how that might impact migration and encounters at New Mexico’s southern border, but now, there’s data that provides answers.

Title 42 ended in May of 2023, leaving border officials with just one main option for returning migrants, called Title 8. Border officials have leaned on Title 8 enforcement on the southern border and say daily migrant encounters have “dropped significantly” at the El Paso border.

During August 2023, there was a daily average of 800 migrant encounters at El Paso, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). A little over a year ago, CBP saw a high of 2,700 encounters in the El Paso Sector.

Officials say they’ve been using Title 8 to prosecute undocumented migrants and individuals at the border. Under Title 8, border officials can bar people from re-entry and apply for an expedited removal process.

While overall encounters are down, migrant deaths did increase from fiscal year 2022 to fiscal year 2023. The number of deaths went from 71 to 134 over that time, and CBP says the number demonstrates the danger transnational criminal organizations (smugglers) can pose at the border.

While criminal smuggling may play a role in migrant deaths, it does so by exposing migrants to dangerous environmental conditions. “Smuggling organizations often abandon migrants in remote and dangerous areas, where severe heat, exposure, and miles of unforgiving desert pose countless threats to migrants,” CBP says on its website.

CBP does make efforts to rescue migrants in dangerous situations. The agency says they rescued 485 migrants in the El Paso Sector from fiscal year 2022 to fiscal year 2023.