Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas claimed last week that the southern border “is secure” – even as Border Patrol agents are facing historic migrant numbers.
Mayorkas spoke at the Aspen Security Forum, where he was asked about the situation at the southern border – which has seen more than 200,000 migrant encounters a month in the last three months.
But even though he acknowledged the situation is a “historic challenge,” the secretary claimed the border is “secure.”
“Look, the border is secure,” he said. “We are working to make the border more secure. That has been a historic challenge.”
Mayorkas also used the question to take aim at lawmakers who have said they will not pass comprehensive immigration legislation. A number of Republicans have said they would not consider legislation that includes a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants already in the country until the border crisis ends.
“I have said to a number of legislators who expressed to me that we need to address the challenge at the border before they pass legislation and I take issue with the math of holding the solution hostage until the problem is resolved,” he said.
“There is work to be done,” he said before clarifying that “safe and secure are two different words.”
“There are smugglers that operate on the Mexican side of the border and placing one’s life in their hands is not safe,” he said.
His remarks come after Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced last week that there were 207,000 migrant encounters at the border in June, compared to just over 189,000 in June last year. The June report shows there were 105,161 migrants removed from the U.S. last month, including 92,273 expelled under CDC’s Title 42 order – 79,652 migrants were released into the US.
With June’s numbers, there have now been 1,746,119 total encounters at the southern border in the 2022 fiscal year – outpacing the 1,734,686 encounters set in the FY21, and with still three months remaining in FY’22.
Republicans have zeroed in on the Biden administration’s handling of the crisis, blaming its rolling back of Trump-era border policy like the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), which requires migrants be returned to Mexico for the duration of their immigration hearings. The administration has also narrowed Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) priorities, stopped border wall construction and implemented an asylum rule to expedite the length of hearings.
The administration has pushed back on those claims by Republicans, blaming instead the closing off of legal asylum pathways by the Trump administration and also pointing to “root causes” like poverty, violence and corruption in Central America. It is also seeking to end Title 42 expulsions, which have been used to expel a majority of migrants since March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. arguing that a shift to traditional expulsions will lower repeat encounters and dissuade migrants. So far the administration has been blocked by a federal court from ending Title 42.
Mayorkas has repeatedly defended his handling of the border crisis, in April he said that his DHS inherited a broken and dismantled system that is already under strain … only Congress can fix this.”
“Yet, we have effectively managed an unprecedented number of non-citizens seeking to enter the United States,” he told lawmakers.