Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said Sunday that it was “too early” to know whether the influx of migrants at the southern US border has increased since the expiration of Title 42 last week.
“The numbers we’ve had in the last few days are significantly lower than what they were before Title 42 expired,” he told CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union.”
Title 42, the Trump-era pandemic public health policy that allows authorities to quickly turn back migrants at the US-Mexico border, expired on Thursday.
On Sunday, Mayorkas said US border authorities “experienced a 50% reduction in the number of encounters,” compared to earlier in the week, when encounters at the US southern border were close to 10,000. migrants a day.
He told CNN that authorities reported about 6,300 border encounters on Friday and 4,200 on Saturday.
Mayorkas credited the low numbers over the past two days to the Biden administration’s clear message to migrants that escaping legal channels for asylum has dire consequences.
“We are communicating very clearly, an important message to individuals who are thinking of coming to our southern border,” he said. “There is a lawful, safe and orderly way to come to the United States through the channels that President Biden has expanded in an unprecedented way. And then there are consequences if one does not use those lawful means.” channels. And that consequence is removal from the United States, a deportation and facing a five-year re-entry ban and possible criminal prosecution.
On Sunday, Biden said border fears were “gone.”
“I hope they keep coming down,” he said in a brief statement to reporters as he finished the bike ride in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. “We need more help from Congress, as well, in terms of funding and legislative change.”
Asked if he planned to visit the border, the president said, “Not in the near term, no. It’s just a distraction.”
Mayorkas, in his Bash interview, echoed criticism from both sides of the aisle that the Biden administration is not ready for an end to Title 42.
“I respectfully disagree,” he said, defending the administration’s reformed asylum system, which has faced questions from liberals about its fairness to would-be migrants.
CNN previously reported that with the lifting of Title 42, most of the administration barred migrants traveling to other countries on their way to the US-Mexico border from applying for asylum in the United States, which marking a departure from decades-old protocol.
The rule, proposed earlier this year, would have meant that migrants would not qualify for asylum in the US unless they first sought refuge in a country they passed through, such as Mexico, on their way to the border. Migrants who get an appointment through the CBP One app will be released, according to officials.
Mayorkas framed the tightening of asylum rules as a way to “cut out” smugglers who profit from human tragedy, saying it is “not only a security requirement, but a humanitarian responsibility.”
“We have an obligation to deliver results on our border, to not only manage our border, but to cut off smugglers,” he said.
Mayorkas also said he hasn’t spoken to House Speaker Kevin McCarthy about what compromises Republicans and the administration will reach on immigration, after the GOP-controlled House narrowly passed a tough security law. at the border last week.
That bill, which the Democratic-led Senate has failed to pass, would increase funding for border agents, place new restrictions on asylum seekers and improve requirements for E-verify, among other things. provisions.
After the move, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre accused House Republicans of “playing politics” while calling on Congress to approve Biden’s proposal “to fix our broken immigration system inherited from this administration.”
In a separate appearance Sunday on “State of the Union,” House Homeland Security Chairman Mark Green said the GOP legislation was “not intended to fix immigration” but to “secure our border.”
“We need to secure our border, and then we can deal with the immigration piece. You can’t create more incentive to come here without a secure border,” said the Tennessee Republican.
While some Republicans have pushed for Mayorkas to be removed from his role, Green said his committee does not have the authority to impeach the secretary but told CNN he plans to “look closely at those failure of this administration and Secretary Mayorkas” and established. a “five-step accountability plan.”
“I would be remiss in my job not to look at this man’s performance and show the American people how he failed,” he said.
Asked about such criticism on Sunday, Mayorkas maintained that he was “focused on the job in front of us.”
This story has been updated with additional information.