(Bloomberg) -- The number of migrants crossing the US-Mexico border has fallen since President Joe Biden’s move to restrict asylum claims, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said.

US officials logged around 2,600 encounters between ports of entry on the southern border Sunday, down sharply in the two weeks since Biden announced the changes, he said. Mayorkas said it was one of the lowest totals since the start of the administration. 

“The numbers have been decreasing week-over-week, and rather materially,” Mayorkas told a group of Bloomberg News reporters and editors on Monday. “I think it’s too early given the dynamism of the migration phenomenon, but we are indeed seeing results.”

The Biden administration rolled out the asylum restrictions earlier this month, targeting the record migrant encounters that have dogged Biden for much of his term and emerged as a leading political vulnerability ahead of the November election.

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The policy curtails asylum access for migrants crossing illegally when the border is considered overwhelmed — a status that’s triggered when US border agents encounter more than 2,500 individuals between southern ports of entry a day. The 2,600 encounters Mayorkas cited are well below the 4,300 daily average the Border Patrol reported in April, but further reductions would be needed to lift the restrictions. Under Biden’s June 4 proclamation, the measures will be lifted only when crossings between regular points of entry average under 1,500 per day for a week. 

“The fundamental goal of this is to disincentivize people from arriving in between the ports of entry, and rather accessing our lawful pathways,” Mayorkas said.

Mexico Shift

Total border encounters surged late last year, topping 300,000 in the month of December, a month Mayorkas said that Mexico had no funding for enforcement. Biden spoke to Mexico’s president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, that month before Mayorkas and Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited the country; enforcement increased and crossings fell. “Causation, not just correlation,” Mayorkas said.

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Claudia Sheinbaum won Mexico’s presidential race earlier this month and is poised to succeed Lopez Obrador in October. There’s been no change in Mexico’s enforcement since her election, Mayorkas said. 

Immigrants’ rights advocates are challenging the Biden asylum policy in court. Mayorkas said he was confident in the legal footing. “Not only as a general matter, but as a specific matter, we don’t take actions that we consciously understand to be unlawful,” he said.

The Department of Homeland Security over the past two years created a series of new ways for prospective immigrants to enter the US legally, including through appointments at official ports of entry and a special application process for Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans and Venezuelans.

Republicans and border hawks have argued that Biden’s move to curtail asylum is too little too late, a claim Mayorkas disputed.

“I don’t think we can overstate how operationally significant of a shift this is,” he said while praising DHS’s workforce. “It’s a shift in policy of course, but it’s also a significant operational shift in terms of how we process individuals whom we encounter at the border.”

The secretary also pointed to separate asylum restrictions the administration established last year and Congress’s failure to approve supplemental border funds or pass a border deal this year.

“We’ve tried that twice, pushed forward twice, and now we take this action, so I would say the chronology is a perfectly understandable one,” he said.

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Turmoil Threats

Mayorkas also acknowledged many factors are outside the administration’s control — the rise of gangs that the government of Ecuador has labeled terrorist organizations, for example — could prompt more migration in the region and threaten further turmoil at the border.

Another area of concern is the presidential election at the end of July in Venezuela, which, after Mexico, was the largest country of origin for undocumented migrants encountered at the US southern border in the most recent fiscal year. Some polls have shown Venezuelans would be more prone to leave home if President Nicolás Maduro secures a third term.

“The reasons people leave their countries persist,” Mayorkas said. “That is why it’s a multi-pronged approach and a multinational approach,” he said.

--With assistance from Eric Martin and Josh Wingrove.

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