On August 12, 2021 Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas delivered remarks on what the Department of Homeland Security is doing to address the situation at the border and the Biden-Harris Administration’s efforts to build a fair, orderly, and humane immigration system.
Transcript of Secretary Mayorkas’ Remarks as Delivered
Good afternoon. Thank you very much for being here today. I am here to visit our workforce, to meet with community members and leaders and law enforcement personnel. I especially want to recognize and thank the men and women of the United States Border Patrol who are doing absolutely heroic work in the service of our nation and to uphold our laws. Under the leadership of President Biden, we are doing everything we can to provide them with the resources they need to do the work in the way they feel most proud. I want to introduce to you, Raul Ortiz. With more than 29 years of service in the United States Border Patrol, Chief Ortiz will become the Chief of the Border Patrol, effective this Saturday, I also want to introduce to you Dr. Pritesh Gandhi, the Department of Homeland Security's Chief Medical Officer.
At the very outset, I want to communicate very clearly that the situation at the border is one of the toughest challenges we face. It is complicated, changing, and involves vulnerable people at a time of a global pandemic. I want to provide information to you, the facts, the challenge we face and why, and our plan to meet the challenge. That is what we do: we confront challenges, and we meet them.
I also want to take a few minutes to debunk false information that has been spread. Before I provide the latest numbers, and they reflect an increase in encounters in between the ports of entry, I want to explain who the migrants are, the composition of the migrant population, and the processes we follow. First, let me start with the unaccompanied children. As I think all of you know in the prior administration, Title 42 authority of the Centers for Disease Control was used to expel unaccompanied children regardless of their age and that is a practice that we discontinued immediately in the Biden Administration, for humanitarian reasons, because in fact, they are just children, some, so very tender of age.
These children are eligible to make a claim for asylum or to pursue Special Immigrant Juvenile status in court proceedings, under our laws. We, in the United States Border Patrol, transfer them to Health and Human Services, for they, their care, custody and control as quickly as possible, to unite them with a parent or legal guardian, here in the United States before they make their claim for asylum or their claim for Special Immigrant Juvenile status. You will recall in March of this year, we experienced a tremendous crowding in our Border Patrol stations of unaccompanied children and I said then that it was a challenge for us, that we had a plan to meet that challenge, and that we were executing on that plan, and that it would indeed take time. That is what we did. And we cleared the Border Patrol of the overcrowding, of the unaccompanied children, in execution of our plan. Next, and of course I should say that of course we have unaccompanied children still in Border Patrol custody, but we are moving them much, much faster than we did in March and under the 72 hours that is required by law. Next, we have the single adults. Single adults, the great majority of single adults are expelled under the Title 42 authority, the public health authority of the Centers for Disease Control. They are processed very quickly, turned around, and sent back. If they are not expelled, they are placed into removal proceedings, which are immigration enforcement proceedings. They are prosecuted for removal, and are removed, unless they make a successful claim for relief and establish that they are entitled to remain in the United States, under the laws that Congress has passed.
Finally, the third category of individuals or families: individuals who comprise family units. They are expelled under the Title 42 authority, unless we are unable to do so. For example, in certain parts of Mexico, they have no longer any capacity to receive expelled families and in that instance, we place the families in immigration proceedings, in immigration enforcement proceedings for removal [from] the United States, and they are removed unless they make a claim for relief under United States law, and that claim is ultimately successful. We are encountering an unprecedented number of migrants in between the ports of entry at our Southern border. A few points: we have seen my surges in migration before. We've seen them in the past, and migrations surges are not new. Two, and importantly, migrants encountered at our border are expelled or are placed in immigration enforcement proceedings. The rise in encounters of migrants at the Southern border began in April of 2020, last year, but the increase is most certainly sharper over the past several months, and greater than in June.
Allow me to share with you the CBP enforcement numbers for July. 212,672 persons were encountered attempting entry along the Southwest border, a 13% increase over June 2021. A majority continue to be single adults. Specifically, approximately 52%. This is a 6% decrease from June. 95,788 individuals, more than 45% of July encounters, were processed for expulsion under Title 42. 116,884 individuals were processed under Title 8. Those are removal proceedings—immigration enforcement proceedings—as distinct from Title 42 public health authority proceedings under the CDC‘s authority. 85,563 single adults, or 78% were processed for expulsion under Title 42, with 24,880 processed under Title 8. Lastly, 9,948 family unit individuals, or 12%. were processed for expulsion under Title 42, with 73,018 processed under Title 8.
These numbers, I think this is a very important point, these numbers do not reflect the number of different people who were encountered at the border. The large number of expulsions under Title 42 during the pandemic has contributed to a large number of migrants, making multiple border crossing attempts. 27% of encounters, in July, were individuals who had at least one prior encounter in the past 12 months. The number of unique individuals, if you will, encountered in July, 2021 was 154,288. A total of 845,307 unique individuals have been encountered year-to-date during fiscal year 2021, compared to, let me repeat that number. 845,307 unique individuals, different individuals, have been encountered year-to-date in fiscal year 2021, as compared to 796,400, during the same period in 2019.
There are several reasons for the rise in migrant encounters at the Southern border. Worsening conditions, of course, in the countries of origin, including poverty, a rise in violence, and corruption. Young boys whose lives are threatened, if they declined to join gangs. Young women who are vulnerable to rape while they walk to school. Tragically, former President Trump slashed our international assistance to Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. Slashed the resources that we were contributing to address the root causes of irregular migration. Another reason is the end of the cruel policies of the past administration and the restoration of the rule of laws of this country that Congress has passed, including our asylum laws that provide humanitarian relief. And thirdly, and importantly, is the resurgence of the economy in the United States, and the gleam of the American promise, once again.
We're facing a serious challenge at our Southern border, and the challenge is of course made more acute, more difficult because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It has also been made more difficult because of the, of the fact that the prior administration dismantled our asylum system. Nevertheless, we meet challenges. We meet difficult ones, we do so with our heroic workforce, our expertise, our plans, and our execution of our plans. Here again, just as we did with the challenge of unaccompanied children, in March of this year, we have a plan, we are executing our plan, and that takes time.
Our plan has four pivotal parts: addressing the root causes, rebuilding and building safe, legal, and orderly pathways for migrants to apply for relief under our laws, without having to take the burden perilous journey north, improving security management, processing and other measures at our border, and attacking the smugglers. We've done a great deal and we need to do more. We are doing it with our partners throughout the federal government in an all-of-government effort directed by our President, and we are partnering with law enforcement, community based organizations, and many others.
Let me speak of the actions that we have taken, or at least some of the actions that we have taken in each part of our plan. First, in addressing the root causes, the effort that our Vice President is leading. On her trip to Guatemala, Vice President Harris announced that USAID and the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation will provide up to $48 million in U.S. government resources to advance the economic security opportunity in Guatemala. On July 29, the U.S. government launched our strategy to address the root causes of migration in Central America, which guides our whole-of-government effort to improve the security, governance, human rights, and economic conditions in the region. USAID already has launched a series of new initiatives to promote good governance and expand opportunities that will enable the people of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras to build better futures in their home countries. This includes the region-wide $5 million regional challenge to advance gender equality. In Honduras, nearly $24 million to expand employment opportunities and promote civic and election participation and integrity. In El Salvador, nearly $12 million to help small businesses recover from the impact of COVID, as well as new multi-year solicitations for up to $115 million to address crime and violence, including gender-based violence and provide opportunities to youth and others. In Guatemala, more than $19 million to strengthen anti-corruption efforts. These are but a few of the examples of the efforts that are already underway to address the root causes of irregular migration.
Let me speak about what we have done and what we have underway to build safe, legal, and orderly pathways, so that people do not need to take the perilous journey North. On June 10, the U.S. Government announced more than $57 million in funds to support urgent humanitarian needs of vulnerable refugees and migrants in Central America. The Department of State opened the first Migration Resource Center in Guatemala to provide individuals with protection screening and referrals to asylum, refugee resettlement, and parole options. And I had the privilege and opportunity to visit the migration, the Migrant Resource Center in Guatemala. last month. The President issued a new Fiscal Year 2021 Presidential Determination on refugees that created 5,000 slots for refugees from Latin America and the Caribbean. On March 10, our department, the Department of Homeland Security, and State reopened the Central American Minors, or CAM program, to reunite children who are nationals of El Salvador, Guatemala, or Honduras, with their parents in the United States. On June 15, we announced the expansion of the Central American Minors program that was a program that was working and that President Trump dismantled. DHS set aside 6,000 H-2B visas for temporary nonagricultural workers for nationals from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala. On July 29, last week, the U.S. Government, we launched the Collaborative Migration Management Strategy, the first of its kind to strengthen cooperative efforts to manage safe, orderly, and humane migration in North and Central America.
We are also, as I mentioned, improving processing at the Southern border in implementing other measures, not only to stop recidivism, but to tackle the challenge in other ways, including to strengthen enforcement. We have deployed additional personnel to the Southern border. We have increased lateral flights of migrants to address capacity constraints in Mexico. Our expulsion flights are now increasingly moving into the interior of Mexico, so return, so recidivism is not as easy. We are doing so in collaboration with Mexico. We are prosecuting individuals who have been previously removed from the United States, because they have unsuccessfully made a claim for relief under our laws, we are undertaking expedited removal proceedings. Under our law, we have, in certain circumstances, the ability and the capacity to accomplish the removal of individuals who do not qualify to remain in the United States to do so more expeditiously and we are using those authorities. In partnership with the Department of Justice, we are proceeding in accelerated fashion with immigration court proceedings to deliver justice, more rapidly, without compromising due process. We are working with Mexico to increase interdictions. I visited Mexico with other officials in the Administration, but two days ago, to speak about how we can more effectively partner together and what more they can do in the context of our overall relationship as close partners.
We have increased our law, our law enforcement operations in partnership with the Mexican authorities. I met again with the Attorney General of Mexico, as well as north of the border here in the United States, in an all-of-government effort working in task forces, both within the Department of Homeland Security, and with our partners in the Federal Bureau of Investigation, in the Drug Enforcement Administration, and other law enforcement agencies across the Federal enterprise. We are prepared to do more as the situation warrants. It is critical that intending migrants understand clearly that they will be turned back if they enter the United States illegally and do not have a basis for relief under our laws.
We are also at the same time, developing and implementing foundational changes to the system, addressing problems that have existed for many, many years, but have never been solved. In the coming days, our department will announce that we are making changes and improvements to how we process asylum claims. We continue to rebuild our immigration system to ensure fairness and promote equity. We are expanding the virtual platform that we use so successfully to assist the migrants in Camp Matamoros, which was intolerable conditions. We are using that virtual platform where migrants could register using their phones, and we were working with and are continuing to work with, and will increasingly work with community-based organizations in Mexico, international relief organizations, like the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, like UNICEF, like the International Organization for Migration, to bring in individuals in a safe, orderly, and humane way, when in fact they make a claim for relief under United States law that the law recognizes. We are also, of course, addressing the detention conditions here in the United States, and of course I think you're all aware of the measures we've taken in that regard and we will continue to take the measures that the situation warrants.
As I mentioned earlier, the COVID-19 pandemic presents a unique and significant challenge. We are seeing an increase in positivity rate among the migrant population. We built an architecture to test and isolate the migrants who make a legal claim for asylum.* With respect to unaccompanied children, they are tested and cohorted on intake, before we move them as rapidly as possible to the shelter of Health and Human Services. With respect to families, we continue to operate centers where families are tested and isolated as needed. We are working and have established a system with non-governmental organizations in the communities to test and isolate, family members, as a situation warrants. And, as I mentioned earlier, the predominant majority of single adults are expelled rapidly from the Border Patrol.
Now, of course, the Delta variant makes the situation more difficult. Our capacity to test, isolate, and quarantine the vulnerable population, that makes a legal claim for asylum, is stretched. The rate of positivity among the migrants is at or lower than the rates in our local border communities. As has been expressed by the medical professionals, this is a pandemic of the unvaccinated. We are building new capacity to address the situation, and we are doing so as rapidly as possible. The extent of the challenge should not be understated. But nor should our ability to meet it. Thanks to our workforce, our expertise, our plans, and our execution of those plans. Our mission is to protect the American public and to administer the laws of our nation. Consistent with that, our efforts will uphold our laws, and will uphold our values. That includes the laws of humanitarian relief, as well as the laws of enforcement. We will work relentlessly to thwart illegal immigration, and to adjudicate asylum claims fairly and efficiently. Both are embedded in the law and we are committed to upholding both. As we work to meet these long-standing challenges, we do not turn our backs on our values, our principles, our humanity, and our proudest traditions. With that, let me turn it over to Chief Raul Ortiz, of the United States Border Patrol. Thank you.
*DHS coordinates closely with local NGOs and local jurisdictions on building and implementing testing, isolation, and quarantine infrastructure. DHS has developed a partnership model to test and isolate families who test positive for COVID-19, and reimburse 100% of the cost, provided that the state does not stand in the way.