US Homeland Security Chief: No Migration Surge at Mexican Border
U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said Sunday that the number of migrants trying to cross into the United States from Mexico since border entry rules were changed late last week has dropped nearly in half but that it was “too early” to know whether the surge in migration has peaked.
U.S. immigration officials had been expecting a huge surge in the number of migrants walking across the border when it ended a three-year policy late Thursday that called for the automatic expulsion back to Mexico based on fears of the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
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Mayorkas told CNN’s “State of the Union” show that about 10,000 migrants a day had been crossing the border before the rule change, and in many cases were quickly expelled. But he said border agents only encountered 6,300 on Friday and 4,200 on Saturday.
Still, immigration officials say thousands more are encamped in northern Mexico and could try to enter the U.S. in the coming days or weeks.
Republican Representative Michael McCaul, chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told ABC’s “This Week” show, “I do think there are caravans [of migrants] going up. I think they still want to get in.”
McCaul said that in the last two and a half years, “We’ve had 5 million people enter this country illegally, 5.1 [million] get-a-ways. It’s unsustainable.”
Mayorkas credited the smaller numbers of migrants trying to enter the U.S. so far to warnings that the U.S. border was not open and that there was a lawful, if time-consuming, way to enter the U.S., by filing papers for asylum in the U.S., even though relatively few migrants could eventually win approval.
“We have communicated very clearly, a vitally important message to the individuals who are thinking of arriving at our southern border,” he said. “There is a lawful, safe and orderly way to arrive in the United States that is through the [asylum] pathways that President [Joe] Biden has expanded in an unprecedented way.”
“And then there’s a consequence if one does not use those lawful pathways,” he said. “And that consequence is removal from the United States, a deportation and encountering a five-year ban on reentry and possible criminal prosecution.”
Mayorkas contended that by setting clear asylum rules, the U.S. will “cut out” migration smugglers charging migrants thousands of dollars to try to reach the U.S. He called it “not only a security imperative, but a humanitarian responsibility.”
With the end to immediate expulsions related to the concerns over the spread of the coronavirus, the Biden administration has drawn attacks from Republicans that the new response is too weak and from some Democrats that it is too cumbersome and inhumane in that too few asylum requests are likely to be granted.
Republicans in the House of Representatives, with no Democratic support, last week approved immigration legislation calling for completion of a U.S.-Mexico border wall that was started by former President Donald Trump but abandoned by Biden. The Democratic-controlled Senate, however, is unlikely to even consider the measure.
Meanwhile, U.S. District Judge Kent Wetherell in Florida last week blocked the Biden administration from releasing migrants it has detained into the general U.S. population if detention facilities at the border are overcrowded. Mayorkas said the ruling is being appealed.