Today, Secretary Mayorkas provided an update on planning and operations ahead of the lifting of the Title 42 public health Order at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Headquarters in Washington, D.C.
Good morning. To my left is the Acting Commissioner, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Troy Miller, Ricardo Zúniga to my right from United States Department of State.
As you know, on Thursday, tomorrow, May 11 at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time, the Title 42 public health Order will terminate. At that point, we will once again process people at our Southern Border using our immigration enforcement authorities under Title 8 of the United States Code.
Our overall approach is to build lawful pathways for people to come to the United States, and to impose tougher consequences on those who choose not to use those pathways. We are taking this approach within the constraints of a broken immigration system that Congress has not fixed for more than two decades, and without the resources we need – personnel, facilities, transportation, and others – that we have requested of Congress and that we were not given.
We have seen the effectiveness of our approach. More than 100,000 people from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela have arrived lawfully through the pathway we have made available to them, and we reduced border encounters from these groups by 90% between December of last year and March of this year. Our President has led the largest expansion of lawful pathways ever.
At the same time, we are clear-eyed about the challenges we are likely to face in the days and weeks ahead, which have the potential to be very difficult.
Even after nearly two years of preparations, we expect to see large numbers of encounters at our southern border in the days and weeks after May 11. We are already seeing high numbers of encounters in certain sectors.
This places an incredible strain on our personnel, our facilities, and our communities with whom we partner closely.
Our plan will deliver results, but it will take time for those results to be fully realized, and it is essential that we all take this into account.
I cannot overemphasize that our current situation is the outcome of Congress leaving a broken, outdated immigration system in place for over two decades, despite unanimous agreement that we desperately need legislative reform. It is also the result of Congress’s decision not to provide us with the resources we need and that we requested.
Our efforts within the constraints of our broken immigration system are focused on ensuring that the process is safe, orderly, and humane, all while protecting our dedicated workforce and our communities.
Let me be clear: The lifting of the Title 42 public health Order does not mean our border is open.
In fact, it is the contrary. Our use of our immigration enforcement authorities under Title 8 of the United States Code means tougher consequences for people who cross the border illegally.
Unlike under Title 42, an individual who is removed under Title 8 is subject to at least a five-year bar on re-entry into the United States and can face criminal prosecution if they attempt to cross again.
Smugglers have long been hard at work spreading false information that the border will be open after May 11. It will not be. They are lying.
To people who are thinking of making the journey to our Southern Border, know this: the smugglers care only about profit, not people. They do not care about you or your well-being. Do not believe their lies. Do not risk your life and your life savings, only to be removed from the United States if, if and when you arrive here.
Today, we are beginning a new digital advertising campaign in Central and South America to counter the lies of the smugglers with accurate information about U.S. immigration laws. This campaign adds to our extensive ongoing communications efforts in the region.
As you can see by the images before us of removal flights and encounters with our Border Patrol Agents, we are making it very clear that our border is not open, that crossing irregularly is against the law, and that those who are not eligible for relief will be quickly returned.
Do not listen to the lies of the smugglers. This is what will happen to you. You will be returned.
Today, alongside the Department of Justice, we are finalizing a new rule to encourage individuals to use available lawful, safe, and orderly pathways to enter the United States.
The rule presumes that those who do not use lawful pathways to enter the United States are ineligible for asylum. It allows the United States, it allows us, to remove individuals who do not establish a reasonable fear of persecution in the country of removal.
Noncitizens can rebut this presumption only in very limited circumstances; for example, if they have used our lawful pathways or sought asylum or protection in another country through which they have traveled and were denied.
This rule goes into effect once the Title 42 public health Order terminates tomorrow – on Thursday at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time.
What I have just described are only a few elements of an expansive effort that began in 2021 to prepare for this transition from the Title 42 public health authority to our tougher immigration enforcement authorities.
In addition to obtaining the first increase in Border Patrol Agent hiring in over a decade, the first in over a decade, we are in the process of surging personnel to the border, including more than 1,400 DHS personnel, 1,000 processing coordinators, and an additional 1,500 Department of Defense personnel.
All of these individuals will allow our law enforcement officers to stay in the field and focus on their critical mission.
We are delivering on tougher consequences for unlawful entry, including the return, removal, and expulsion of more than 665,000 people during the first half of this fiscal year. We are conducting dozens of removal flights per week, and we continue to increase our removal flight capability.
We are increasing our efficiency and reducing processing times at the border. We launched the CBP One app, which, in its first four months, helped 83,000 individuals schedule an appointment at a port of entry, and we are taking steps to expand available appointments.
We bolstered the capacity of local governments and NGOs. Just last week, we announced the distribution of an additional $332 million to support communities along the Southern Border and in the interior of our country.
We are leading an unprecedented law enforcement disruption campaign that has led to the arrest of nearly 10,000 smugglers who profit from vulnerable immigrants.
Knowing that this is a regional challenge that requires a regional solution, we continue to work with countries throughout the Americas to deter irregular migration. This includes a coordinated campaign with Colombia and Panama to prevent individuals from following ruthless smugglers into the very dangerous Darien. And we are working with our partners in Mexico regularly on a range of issues.
We are a nation of immigrants. We are also a nation of laws.
Our immigration laws today are outdated. The solutions we are implementing are the best available within our current legal authority, but they are short-term solutions to a decades-old problem.
The kind of migration we continue to see today requires more resources – resources we have requested and have not received: clearer authority, and modernized processes that only Congress can deliver. We urge it to do so.
Marsha Espinosa: Ok, we have questions, Nick?
Question: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. We’ve just seen some images from Texas showing that Texas National Guard and DPS physically blocking migrants from climbing up the riverbanks and accessing U.S. soil. Does the Department believe that that's a legal enforcement posture by the state of Texas?
Secretary Mayorkas: Nick, I'm going to leave it to our Department of Justice to just speak to the lawfulness, or lack thereof, of those actions. I will tell you this, that our Border Patrol Agents and our officers work very closely with the Department of Public Safety in Texas on the ground, when it is a coordinated and collaborative effort. It is essential that law enforcement work as one team to address the challenge of the Southern Border.
Marsha Espinosa: Quinn, go ahead.
Question: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. How many credible fear screening interviews do you expect to conduct on a daily basis? And are you confident that we'll keep up with the number of apprehensions you are seeing and expect to see?
Secretary Mayorkas: We are, of the Department of Homeland Security, with one of our agencies, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, is indeed surging asylum officers to Border Patrol facilities as well as to Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facilities to conduct an unprecedented number of credible fear screenings under the asylum rule that is going to be implemented beginning upon the end of Title 42. We are surging approximately 1,000 or more asylum officers for that purpose. It is very important to note that the asylum rule will take effect. If individuals do not access their lawful pathways, the pathways that we have made available to them, they will face a rebuttable presumption. But a presumption of ineligibility for asylum, they will have to meet a higher bar. This President, our President has led the expansion of lawful pathways more than anyone else in our history.
Marsha Espinosa: Pedro?
Question: Yes, uh, Secretary, we have read that the Administration is considering releasing migrants after they're being carefully vetted. And we just have some teams in El Paso yesterday that observed some migrants being vetted for an hour and then afterwards being released with a permit to stay in the country for a year. I wonder how that process is being done and how secure you are all those all those vettings taking place on the border?
Secretary Mayorkas: So, U.S. Customs and Border Protection screens and vets individuals whom we encounter. Individuals – the vast majority of individuals will be returned, those who do not qualify from Border Patrol stations or Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facilities.
We often, as has every administration, release individuals into immigration enforcement proceedings, and those individuals if they do not qualify for relief will be removed. We screen and vet individuals whom we encounter.
Marsha Espinosa: Michelle?
Question: So, you have some promise to build an immigration...
Marsha Espinosa: Michelle – she's been waiting...
Secretary Mayorkas: Michelle – if I may follow up? If I may... Good morning, Michelle...
Question: Just to follow up on the credible fear question, can you give us an idea of what percentage of migrants you think will be receiving those screenings? Is it almost, half, some? And can you also speak to the agreement with Mexico? I know you guys have specifically said they’re planning to take back people from the four nationalities: the Cubans, Venezuelans, Nicaraguan, and Haitians, but is there a possibility that they would take back any other nationalities as well?
Secretary Mayorkas: Michelle, let me – let me break it down a little bit. We are giving the option to individuals, who are in our custody, the option of voluntarily returning to the country from which they came. Because of the consequence of a removal, people have to understand that under Title 8 of the United States Code, when one is removed, one faces a – at least a five-year bar to reentry. And so we will give people an opportunity to avoid that tougher consequence by voluntarily returning. If they do not take that option and they do not claim fear, they will be removed immediately. If they do claim fear, they will encounter a higher threshold, under our asylum rule, unless they have accessed our lawful pathways or sought relief in another country and have been denied. We are surging as I mentioned Michelle, asylum officers to ensure that that screening process, that credible fear screening process, is done fairly, with access to counsel, but expeditiously.
Marsha Espinosa: Suzanne, over to the right –
Question: So how do Americans gain...
Marsha Espinosa: Suzanne –
Question: So how do Americans gain from the immigration paths you are opening, sir? I mean, nobody ever asked this question, do Americans gain from all the immigrants you're bringing into the country that drive down wages, they push up prices?
Secretary Mayorkas: Sir, we are a nation of immigrants, and we are a nation of laws. Individuals who qualify for relief under our laws have a basis to remain in the United States. The contributions of immigrants to this country is quite clear.
Marsha Espinosa: Thank you, next to Suzanne.
Question: Thank you. Um, I –
Secretary Mayorkas: Good morning.
Question: Good morning. Do you guys need to be requesting supplemental funding for the border from Congress? Last I’ve heard, there hadn't been a request made. If you do anticipate it, like what type of criteria would, you know, trigger that kind of request from you guys?
Secretary Mayorkas: In December of this past year, we sought more than $4 billion in funding to address our resource needs, because we are operating within an entirely broken immigration system, and that is something about which there is unanimity. We did not receive the funding that we requested. We received approximately half of what we requested and half of what we needed, which is why we are encountering some of the challenges. We have sought a reprogramming, and we have communicated to Congress that that reprogramming is a fraction of what we ultimately need.
Marsha Espinosa: We have time for one more, Rob...
Question: I’m Gary Grumbach from NBC...
Marsha Espinosa: I’m so sorry.
Question: Gary Grumbach from NBC News, you’ve mentioned some of the immigration proceedings to Pedro. Are you prepared to start releasing migrants into the U.S. without court dates, and without a way to track them, to reduce overcrowding?
Secretary Mayorkas: So, when like other administrations, when we release individuals, we release them on conditions, and their compliance with those conditions is absolutely necessary. And if they fail to comply, we will seek to apprehend them and remove them. They are ultimately in immigration enforcement proceedings. But what we are speaking of, what you are inquiring of, is a minor, is a fraction of the people that we encounter. In fact, the vast majority will be addressed in our Border Patrol facilities and our ICE detention facilities.
Question: Is that not the message though, that the border is open then to migrants?
Secretary Mayorkas: Oh, absolutely, absolutely not. And I think you can ask the approximately 1.4 million people who were expelled, returned, or removed from the United States this past year.
Marsha Espinosa: Anything else? You wanted to add anything else on regional processing centers?
Secretary Mayorkas: I’m sorry?
Marsha Espinosa: If you wanted to add anything on regional processing centers? If not, we’ll close the remarks.
Secretary Mayorkas: Let me just answer Marsha’s question, if I may, with respect to regional processing centers. They are a powerful example of what I expressed earlier, which is that our President has led the expansion of lawful pathways more than anyone preceding him. The regional processing centers are an extraordinary example of that leadership. These are places where we feel a humanitarian, as well as the security imperative, to meet people where they are, to cut the smugglers out, and to provide them with a safe and orderly way to arrive in the United States if they qualify for relief. We are surging our personnel in close partnership with the Department of State, in close partnership with countries in the region.
We require a regional response to what is a regional challenge. We will, in these regional processing centers, screen individuals to determine whether they are eligible for refugee status in the United States. Whether they qualify for what we are expanding in our family reunification programs, or whether on an individualized basis, on a case-by-case basis – as the law requires –whether they are eligible for other humanitarian relief. That is what we are doing. The phenomenon of migration is different than it was 10-12 years ago. We are seeing an unprecedented level of migration throughout the hemisphere. I believe there are approximately 20 million displaced people in our hemisphere.
In addition, the smugglers control the migratory paths. We will cut the smugglers out. We will reach qualifying individuals where they are and provide them with a safe and orderly pathway. If they arrive at our Southern Border, they will meet consequences. We urge migrants, once again, not to believe the smugglers who are lying to them solely to make a profit. We are building lawful pathways for you to come to the United States. Do not place your life and your life savings in the hands of ruthless organizations. Thank you very much.