On September 20, 2021, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas, CBP Acting Commissioner Troy A. Miller, and U.S. Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz delivered remarks to address the situation in Del Rio, Texas. They also discussed the dangers of irregular migration.
Transcript of Secretary Mayorkas’s remarks:
I am on the ground in Del Rio where I have received an operational briefing and witnessed first-hand the steps being taken to address the recent increase in migrant encounters.
I first want to thank the United States Border Patrol, led by Chief Raul Ortiz, a native of Del Rio, for responding to this challenging and heart-breaking situation. I am grateful for the Chief’s extraordinary leadership.
I also want to welcome, of course, Commissioner Troy Miller, who's been leading the U.S. Customs and Border Protection since January 20 and has been doing an extraordinary job.
We are in the midst of a pandemic and a critical migration challenge. We continue to exercise the Centers for Disease Control's Title 42 authority. Title 42 is not an immigration authority but a public health authority to protect the American public, to protect the communities along the border, and to protect the migrants themselves.
I want to share with you some of the steps we are taking to address the current situation here in Del Rio. CBP has surged 600 agents, officers, and DHS volunteer force personnel to the Del Rio sector to enhance our operational capabilities. If additional staff is needed, more will be sent.
Border Patrol is coordinating with ICE and the U.S. Coast Guard to move individuals from Del Rio to other processing locations—including approximately 3,500 over the last few days and 3,000 today—in order to ensure that migrants are swiftly taken into custody, processed, and removed from the United States consistent with our laws and policies.
We in DHS are securing additional transportation to accelerate the pace and increase the capacity of removal flights to Haiti and other destinations in the Western Hemisphere. We are working to increase the capacity of return flights to Haiti and other destinations. We anticipate at least one to three flights per day. The Biden Administration is working with source and transit countries in the region to accept individuals who previously resided in those countries.
We are undertaking urgent humanitarian actions with other relevant federal, state, and local partners to reduce crowding and improve conditions for migrants on United States soil. DHS has already taken a number of steps to ensure the safety and security of individuals as they await processing, including having Border Patrol emergency medical technicians on-hand, and providing water, towels, and portable toilets. This is all part of an all-of-government and whole-of-community effort. We have brought in personnel from the Department of Health and Human Services to address medical needs and supplies. We've also worked with the American Red Cross to bring in supplies and much needed resources to the population. We have worked with the World Central Kitchen to bring in meals for the migrants. Not only do we leverage the resources and capabilities of the Department of Homeland Security, we look across the Federal government and in partnership with civil society, local resources, to see what we can do to bring more capabilities to bear to meet the challenge, and that is indeed what we are doing here.
Finally, the White House has directed appropriate U.S. agencies to work with the Haitian and other regional governments to provide assistance and support to returnees. The majority of migrants continue to be expelled under CDC’s Title 42 authority. Those who cannot be expelled under that authority and do not have a legal basis to remain will be placed in expedited removal proceedings. DHS is conducting regular expulsion and removal flights to Haiti, Mexico, Ecuador, and Northern Triangle countries.
We are very concerned that Haitians who are taking this irregular migration path are receiving false information that the border is open, or that Temporary Protected Status is available. I want to make sure that it is known that this is not the way to come to the United States. That is false information. Irregular migration poses a serious security risk to the migrants themselves. Trying to enter the United States illegally is not worth the tragedy, the money, or the effort. As we have said consistently since we published the Federal Register Notice officially designating Haiti for Temporary Protected Status—or TPS—only Haitians living in the United States before July 29 are eligible for Temporary Protected Status.
We have reiterated that our borders are not open, and people should not make the dangerous journey. Individuals and families are subject to border restrictions, including expulsion. Irregular migration poses a significant threat to the health and welfare of border communities, and to the lives of the migrants themselves, and should not be attempted. If you come to the United States illegally, you will be returned. Your journey will not succeed, and you will be endangering your life and your family's lives. This Administration is committed to developing safe, orderly, and humane pathways for migration, but this is not the way to do it. Thank you.
It is my pleasure to introduce Commissioner Troy Miller of the United States Customs and Border Protection.
Transcript of CBP Acting Commissioner Miller’s remarks:
Good afternoon. Thank you, Mr. Secretary. Thank you for joining us here today and, importantly, thank you for what you've done over the last several days to elevate the work that we're doing since this group of migrants began arriving in Del Rio. Your leadership has ensured that DHS could count on a whole-of-government approach. That is not just a buzzword, it means that the federal government is engaged and mobilizing the necessary resources to process the migrants arriving here at Del Rio quickly, humanely, and maintain the safety of everyone involved.
And I can't say thank you enough to the state, local, and NGO partners that are also here with us. Once again, everybody's come together to assist in addressing the needs of the local communities, while also addressing the challenging situations we face together. I thank you for everyone's hard work. I also want to thank my colleague, Border Patrol Chief Ortiz. Chief took the helm a few short weeks ago and just in time to lead this important effort in his hometown. The Chief will give additional operational details in just a minute
And I want to thank the CBP workforce who continue to rally to every situation and challenge we face. I am proud to work alongside the dedicated and resilient men and women of CBP every single day who have served this country with relentless determination and integrity.
Finally, I want to stress something important. CBPs message for anyone thinking of entering the United States illegally along the southern border is clear and simple: Our borders are not open. Entering the country illegally is a dangerous undertaking. Don't put your life or put your family safety in the hands of smugglers or other criminals who will tell you that our borders are open. Don't do it.
With that, I want to turn it over to US Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz.
Transcript of U.S. Border Patrol Chief Ortiz:
Good morning and thank you, Acting Commissioner Miller and Secretary Mayorkas, for the support you provided, so we can get these resources moved in here as quickly as we have.
The coordination within CBP, throughout DHS, and across the federal government is key to our response. This really has been a whole-of-government approach as I've never seen before and that means it has included our state, local, and NGO partners, and certainly the communities that have come together and worked long hours to address this situation here in Del Rio Texas, and I want to thank them from the bottom of my heart.
I also want to talk a little bit about, you know, what we have mobilized. As the Commissioner and the Secretary mentioned, 600 agents—that includes customs officers and border patrol agents, mobile field force trained individuals and DHS volunteer force personnel to the Del Rio sector—to improve control of the situation underneath this bridge.
We prioritized surging medical support personnel and have expanded the scope and scale of medical support on the ground. This includes a CBP MTs, DHS volunteer force members, as well as personnel from across the federal government to include the HHS Disaster Medical Assistance Team who arrived this morning and are continuing to provide services to the migrants. This also includes the San Antonio Fire Department. They sent personnel to assist us, and we want to thank all of these partners for the assistance as we provide integrated, on-site medical services, and try to reduce the strain on the local community.
Together our teams have been able to handle most medical concerns while continuing to stay in touch with local health systems on issues that may require additional medical care at a facility here in Del Rio. The Del Rio Port of Entry remains closed. Traffic is being re-routed from Del Rio to Eagle Pass to more effectively manage resources and ensure uninterrupted flow of trade and travel.
As I said yesterday, U.S. Border Patrol is coordinating with Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the U.S. Coast Guard to move individuals from Del Rio to other processing locations within Texas, including 2,500 on Sunday. DHS is also working to accelerate and increase the frequency and capacity of Title 42 flights to expel individuals to Haiti and other countries of origin. We're achieving our goals. We're getting there and getting to a point where we can manage a population here. We are already seeing it quickly diminish, and we'll continue to see that over the coming days.
I talked yesterday about how so much of this migration is driven through social media and word of mouth, and smugglers are significant drivers of the misinformation that gets people to undertake these dangerous journeys. Smugglers continue to recklessly endanger lives of individuals they exploit for their own financial gain. Many of these migrants cross through remote, harsh terrain and unpredictable weather to get this far. Many likely didn't make it.
The smugglers leverage misinformation to mislead people. Some of that information is focused on the TPS. Let's be clear: Only those individuals living in the United States prior to July 29 are eligible for temporary protected status. or TPS. No one who arrived here this past week will be eligible to get TPS. So here's the facts. We are still enforcing the CDC Title 42 order, and those attempting irregular migration here will not be allowed to enter the United States. They will be removed and sent back to their country of origin as mandated under current laws. I also want to stress that, for those being removed to Haiti, our partners at the State Department are working to ensure that there is adequate support when they arrive in Haiti. But the message is clear: Do not attempt the journey.
All of you coming here from the media, you're crucial to getting this message out: that the smugglers are unscrupulous, and the misinformation is wrong. Our borders are not open and people should not make the journey.
Thank you for being here.