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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

Updated 45 mins ago - World

Biden cleans up comments about Russia invading Ukraine

Photo: Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images

President Biden sought to clarify his suggestion that a "minor incursion" by Russia into Ukraine may not draw the same response as a large invasion, telling reporters Thursday that "Russia will pay a heavy price" if any troops cross the border.

Why it matters: Some officials in Kyiv saw Biden's comments as inviting Russian aggression.

Tina Reed, author of Vitals
58 mins ago - Health

Study finds bias against Black patients written into medical charts

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Black patients were more than two-and-a-half times as likely as white patients to have negative descriptors about them in their electronic health record, according to a study published Wednesday in Health Affairs.

Why it matters: The study is further evidence of bias in the U.S. health care system, which can ultimately result in worse care and disparately poor outcomes.

Jan. 6 panel asks Ivanka Trump to cooperate with investigation

Former President Trump and daughter Ivanka Trump walk to Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House on January 4, 2020 in Washington, DC. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol riot sent a letter Thursday to Ivanka Trump requesting her cooperation with the investigation.

Driving the news: "We write to request your voluntary cooperation with our investigation on a range of critical topics," the chair wrote in a letter to the former president's daughter.