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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

28 U.S. citizens depart Afghanistan on Qatar Airways flight

Passengers board a Qatar Airways aircraft bound to Qatar at the airport in Kabul on September 10, 2021. Photo: Aamir Qureshi/AFP via Getty Images

The State Department on Saturday confirmed that a Qatar Airways charter flight left Kabul on Friday with 28 U.S. citizens and seven lawful permanent residents on board.

The big picture: Friday's flight is the third such airlift by Qatar Airways since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, AP reports.

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Smaller than expected "Justice for J6" rally met with large police presence

Police officers watch as demonstrators gather for the "Justice for J6" rally in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 18, 2021. Photo: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images

A few hundred demonstrators were met by a heavy law enforcement presence on Saturday at the "Justice for J6" rally outside the fenced-off U.S. Capitol, AP reports.

The latest: Four people were arrested at the rally, including one person with a gun, one with a knife and two with outstanding warrants, per the U.S. Capitol Police.

DHS to increase deportation flights to Haiti from Del Rio

Migrants walk across the Rio Grande River carrying supplies back to a makeshift encampment under the international bridge between Del Rio, Texas, and Acuña, Mexico. Officials are struggling to provide food, water, shelter and sanitation, forcing migrants to cross the Rio Grande several times per day for basic necessities. Photo: Jordan Vonderhaar via Getty Images

The Department of Homeland Security on Saturday announced plans to ramp up deportation flights to Haiti out of the small Texas border town Del Rio, starting as soon as Sunday.

Why it matters: Reports have emerged of more than 10,000 migrants, primarily from Haiti, crowded in a temporary camp under the international bridge in Del Rio. Hoping to find refuge in the United States, they've had to bear with filthy conditions and the scorching sun for days, per an NBC News affiliate.