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Migrants stand next to the border wall in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. Photo: John Moore/Getty Images

The Biden administration kept a Trump-era policy known as "Title 42" as a tool to quickly turn back adults and families who illegally cross the southern border— but new Department of Homeland Security data leaked to Axios shows in recent days it's hardly been used for families.

Driving the news: The data shows an average of just 13% of nearly 13,000 family members attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border were returned to Mexico between March 14 and March 21 using the public health order, which essentially says the U.S. can close the border to nonessential travel because of the coronavirus.

  • It's a sign of how the administration is struggling to keep up with a migration surge, and has been recently hamstrung by Mexico's inability to take in more families the U.S. otherwise would expel.
  • That doesn't mean the other 87% percent will remain in the U.S. indefinitely, but they will be allowed into the U.S. to go through immigration proceedings.
  • It's too soon to say how many will be ultimately granted asylum or deported — and when. Proceedings can take years.

What they're saying: Given fluctuating migration flows, "one week of statistics doesn’t reflect the full picture," a DHS spokesperson told Axios. "Our policy remains that families are expelled, and in situations where expulsion is not possible due to Mexico’s inability to receive the families, they are placed into removal proceedings.”

  • White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday that the process of deporting those families sometimes "takes a minute to ensure there is proper transportation and steps in place to do that."

Why it matters: Psaki said there are only "narrow, narrow circumstances in which families can't be expelled."

  • But administration officials also say Mexico doesn't always have capacity to take in families sent there under Title 42 — especially when families include young children.
  • A DHS official told Axios the U.S. is "working with our partners in Mexico to increase their capacity."
  • Top Biden border officials met with Mexican officials on Monday to discuss solutions to the surge at the border.

When Title 42 is not invoked, these migrants are tested for the coronavirus and quarantined if needed before being placed in removal proceedings, according to the DHS official and Psaki.

  • Some are transferred to the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which recently signed a contract to provide hotel rooms for migrant families.
  • Some are released at bus stops or local nongovernmental organizations.
  • Border patrol agents in the Rio Grande Valley sector are releasing some migrants without a court date.

The big picture: The Biden administration has taken fire from both the right and the left over its use of Title 42.

  • Progressives have decried the use of the order to expel families and adults, while conservatives have blamed the rising number of unaccompanied minors on the administration's choice not to use the order to return them to Mexico.

Go deeper

EA Sports is in expansion mode

EA Sports general manager Daryl Holt (left). Photo illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios. Photos: EA Sports

The biggest player in sports video games has plans to get even bigger — on mobile, in football, maybe even with basketball again — EA Sports general manager Daryl Holt said in an exclusive interview with Axios.

Why it matters: Sports gaming doesn’t get much press, but it’s a surging market with increased competition and lots of players up for grabs.

Heat wave grips U.S. this week from coast to coast

Computer model projection from the GFS model showing an unusually hot airmass across the western and Central U.S. on Thursday, June 29, 2021. (Weatherbell.com)

A widespread heat wave has begun across the contiguous U.S., with at least 30 million people likely to see temperatures reach or exceed 100°F by the end of the week.

Why it matters: The hot weather, which comes courtesy of another heat dome building across the Southwest, Rockies and then sliding into the western Plains, will only aggravate drought conditions and worsen many of the western wildfires.

VA first federal agency to require COVID vaccines for employees

A medical doctor gives the thumbs-up sign to a COVID-19 patient who is no longer using a respirator at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in New York City. Photo: Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images

The Department of Veterans Affairs said Monday it would require its frontline health care workers to get vaccinated against the coronavirus within the next two months, the New York Times reports.

Why it matters: The VA is the first federal agency to mandate that employees receive the vaccine. The decision comes as cases of the Delta variant in the U.S. have increased dramatically.