Mayorkas says US braces for ‘significant challenges’ along border, asking countries to accept deportees

Mayorkas says US braces for ‘significant challenges’ along border, asking countries to accept deportees

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas acknowledged on Friday that the planned end of Title 42 border deportations in May could pose “significant challenges” to the US government, but he stressed his department was ready to implement change and deal with a likely increase in migrant arrivals.

In a interview With CBS News on Friday, Mayorkas said the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has erected migrant processing facilities, deployed additional medical and other personnel to the southern border, and expanded migrant transport capabilities in as part of a one-month plan.

Mayorkas, who met with officials in Panama this week, said the Biden administration is also asking for help from countries in the Western Hemisphere to reduce the current high levels of migration to the U.S. border, including convincing them to accept the return of asylum. asylum seekers and migrants rejected by the United States

“The claim that we have no plans is a claim that is not based on facts,” Mayorkas said. “We have been planning for months to deal with increases in migration; those we have already experienced and those we may encounter at the end of Title 42.”

Under Title 42, a pandemic-era rule put in place by the Trump administration in March 2020, the United States has turned away hundreds of thousands of migrants on public health grounds.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas speaks during a press conference at the Ministerial Conference on Migration and Protection in Panama City on April 20, 2022.

LUIS ACOSTA/AFP via Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s decision to end Title 42 on May 23 has angered Republican lawmakers and a growing number of more moderate Democrats who don’t believe Mayorkas and his department are ready to deal with an even greater increase in migration. Texas and other Republican-led states are asking federal courts to block the policy’s termination.

Arrests of migrants along the US-Mexico border soared to 221,000 in March, a 22 year old top. Mayorkas noted that many arrests represent repeated crossings by the same people, a phenomenon he said DHS will work to reduce through criminal prosecution.

“Individuals who make repeated attempts, who seek to defy the law, are subject to criminal prosecution in appropriate circumstances,” Mayorkas said. “And we’re working with the Department of Justice to do that.”

Over the past two years, Title 42 has allowed US border agents to deport migrants more than 1.8 million times without examining them for asylum. About 75% of those deportations took place under President Biden. His administration, however, also reported nearly 2.5 million migrant arrests in 14 months, according to DHS data.

The CDC determined earlier this month that Title 42 was no longer needed to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Many public health experts and even CDC officials had long questioned the validity of this rationale.

Once Title 42 is completed, Mayorkas said migrants who are not eligible for U.S. asylum will be deported through regular immigration procedures. But US officials have struggled to return large numbers of migrants to some countries like Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela due to strained relations with local governments.

Concerns about these deportation limits have intensified recently as more migrants arrive at the US border from countries other than Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras – where the US routinely carries out deportations. In March, 32,000 Cubans and 16,000 Nicaraguans were detained at the US border, two records.

Mayorkas said one of the purposes of his trip to Panama was to highlight the countries’ collective responsibility in managing migration flows affecting most of the region, including the need to facilitate the “safe return” of migrants in their country of origin.

“We talked about the responsibility to manage borders across the region in a humanitarian way that respects the law, meaning those who are eligible for aid in a particular country get that aid and those who don’t. are not being repatriated,” he said.

Mayorkas said one element of separate talks with Cuban officials this week was to ensure the island nation accepts deportations of its citizens under an Obama-era deal that also binds states. United to facilitate the legal migration of Cubans with their families. members in the United States

Dealing with other countries, however, will be more difficult, Mayorkas noted. In those cases, he said the United States would engage other countries with warmer ties to the United States to “be part of the solution.”

“It’s quite difficult to deal with a country like Venezuela, where diplomatic relations, if they exist, can be strained. And so we have to be practical here to deal with the realities,” Mayorkas said.

Visit of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to Panama
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas during a tour of the Panama Canal at the Miraflores Locks in Panama City on April 19, 2022.

Brendan Smialowski/Pool via REUTERS

In addition to collaboration on deportations, Mayorkas said other pillars of the administration’s regional migration efforts include facilitating the integration of asylum seekers cleared to live in new countries, expanding legal pathways for those seeking to migrate; and helping nations retain their residents by investing in struggling communities.

The regional approach, Mayorkas said, is necessary because the United States is not the only country receiving migrants, citing the large displaced populations of Venezuelans in Colombia and Nicaraguans in Costa Rica. According to him, the ultimate goal is to prevent individuals from attempting “perilous” journeys that can sometimes be fatal.

“I visited the Darienextraordinarily treacherous terrain, and I have learned firsthand the disastrous consequences of this endeavour,” Mayorkas said, referring to the roadless jungle region connecting Panama and Colombia that many migrants cross to reach the United States. -United.

Republicans have sharply criticized the administration’s migration strategy, blaming it for the record number of border arrivals over the past year.

Republicans said the unprecedented migration flows have been fueled by the Biden administration’s reversal of some restrictive Trump-era border policies, its more sympathetic rhetoric toward migrants, and the release of hundreds of thousands of migrants and asylum seekers over the past year.

Mayorkas is expected to confront those criticisms directly when he appears before the House Judiciary Committee next week.

“The American people deserve answers and accountability for the Biden administration’s anarchy along the Southwest border” Jim Jordan, Congressman from Ohio, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, mentioned earlier this week when it was announced that Mayorkas will appear before the panel on April 28.

In Friday’s interview, Mayorkas said members of Congress can offer a permanent solution to the challenges along the US-Mexico border. When asked if he would ask Congress for more funding or legal authority to respond to Title 42 changes, Mayorkas said legislative reform is needed.

“We are operating within the confines of a system that is entirely broken and has long awaited a legislative solution,” he added.

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