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Secretary Mayorkas Delivers Remarks on DHS's Continued … – Homeland Security

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Secretary Mayorkas Delivers Remarks on DHS’s Continued Preparation for the End of Title 42 and Announcement of New Border Enforcement Measures and Additional Safe and Orderly Processes:

Good afternoon. 

With me today is Troy Miller, the Acting Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection; Raul Ortiz, the Chief of the United States Border Patrol; and Sidney Aki, of CBP’s Office of Field Operations and the leader of our Southwest Border Coordination Center.

I’m very pleased to speak after President Biden’s remarks earlier today.

The Department of Homeland Security, in partnership with others, continues to prepare for the lifting of the Title 42 public health order, which is currently the subject of multiple court orders requiring continued implementation.  Once the Title 42 public health order is no longer in place, DHS will use its longstanding Title 8 immigration enforcement authorities to process all individuals encountered at the border. 

At the outset, let me be clear: Title 42 or not, the border is not open. We will continue to fully enforce our immigration laws in a safe, orderly, and humane manner. Individuals without a legal basis to remain in the United States will be subject to prompt expulsion under Title 42 or removal under Title 8.  We will comply with the court orders that require us to continue enforcing the Title 42 order, and we will also use this time to enhance and increase our use of expedited removal under Title 8 where permitted to do so.

Building on our work throughout 2022, today we are announcing new border enforcement measures to improve border security, limit irregular migration, and create additional safe and orderly processes for people fleeing humanitarian crises to lawfully come to the United States.  These measures, taken together, are concrete steps to enhance the security of our border today, while the Title 42 public health order is in place, and steps that we will build on and extend to regular Title 8 processes once the Title 42 order is lifted.

Stepping back, fundamentally, we are here because our immigration system is broken, outdated, and in desperate need of reform.  The laws we enforce have not been updated for decades.  It takes four or more years to conclude the average asylum case, immigration judges have a backlog of more than 1.7 million cases, and we have more than 11 million undocumented people in our country, many of whom work in the shadows, pay taxes, are our neighbors, attend our places of worship, work on the frontlines, and farm the food on our tables.

At the same time, the world is experiencing the greatest displacement of people since World War II, and our entire hemisphere is gripped with mass migration.  The dynamics at our Southwest border have changed dramatically.  Encounters of Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans, and Venezuelans rose more than 250 percent and grew to 40 percent of all border enforcement encounters. 

This migration is by no means limited to our country.  There are 2.5 million Venezuelans now living in Colombia and 1.5 million in Peru; Brazil and Chile are hosting more than 350,000 Haitians, and the number of displaced Nicaraguans in Costa Rica more than doubled in the last 12 months alone.

The challenges are immense.  Countries such as Venezuela and Nicaragua generally refuse to accept the return of their citizens.  Smuggling organizations are far more sophisticated criminal enterprises than in years prior, their reach through social media is unprecedented, and they are far more ruthless.  The number of migrants rescued by CBP has almost quadrupled over the past two years, and we have seen horrific tragedies involving tractor trailers in San Antonio, Texas, and in the Mexican state of Chiapas.  These are only the tragedies that we know of; countless other men, women, and children have faced grave harm, exploitation, and death at the hands of smugglers along the dangerous route.

These challenges are magnified when immigration politics substitute for governance:  when leaders deliberately refuse to coordinate their actions with the federal government or communities receiving migrants, or when disingenuous political rhetoric fuels the disinformation smugglers peddle to vulnerable migrants to deceptively lure them to our Southern border.

I have been to the border nearly twenty times, and I can attest to the steadfast commitment of the DHS workforce to secure our border, enforce our laws, and build safe, orderly, and humane immigration processes under extremely difficult conditions.  The challenges I have outlined are straining our capacity and those of our state, local, and NGO partners to manage it.  But they have also prompted innovation and collaboration, which we seek to build on today.

Our approach to managing increased encounters and preparing for the lifting of the Title 42 order was outlined in our Southwest Border Security and Preparedness framework, issued in April, and updated in December.  Among other things, this work includes the largest anti-smuggler campaign in history with over 7,300 smuggler arrests and the disruption of over 8,000 components of smuggler infrastructure, like confiscating tractor trailers or shutting down stash houses; surging agents and officers to the Southwest border, bringing the total to 23,000, and putting more of those agents in the field to perform their essential law enforcement and national security mission.

It also includes doubling down on our collaboration, whether with state and local partners through our expanded Emergency Food and Shelter Program grants, or with international partners, who are united to advance the principles of the Los Angeles Declaration signed by President Biden and twenty other regional leaders last summer.  Hemispheric challenges require hemispheric solutions, and we are working closely with governments throughout the region to create lawful pathways, enhance protection, and better enforce borders throughout the migratory chain. 

Innovation and collaboration are critical to the program we announced in October, enabling vetted and qualifying Venezuelans to travel safely, and directly, to an interior port of entry in the United States without having to make the dangerous journey to the border.  In partnership with Mexico, we imposed consequences on those who did not use the newly created lawful pathway.  Thousands of Venezuelans have benefitted, and we saw a dramatic drop – a 90 percent drop – in the number of Venezuelans encountered at our Southwest border following the commencement of the program in October.  The program is based on Uniting for Ukraine, a streamlined process that has enabled fleeing Ukrainians to obtain the support of sponsors and travel safely to the United States.

Individuals who are provided a safe, orderly, and lawful path to the United States are less likely to risk their lives traversing thousands of miles in the hands of ruthless smugglers, only to arrive at our Southwest border and face the legal consequences of unlawful entry.  We can provide humanitarian relief consistent with our values, cut out the vicious smuggling organizations, and enforce our laws to enhance the security of our Southwest border by reducing irregular migration. Those principles underlie the new actions we are announcing today.

First, we will continue the Venezuela process and increase the number of individuals who can benefit from it.  Building on its success, we will implement similar processes for Cuban, Haitian, and Nicaraguan nationals who face challenging conditions in their home countries. 

This is how it works: effective immediately, citizens from Venezuela, Nicaragua, Cuba, and Haiti who attempt to cross our border without authorization will be swiftly expelled to Mexico, which will accept returns of 30,000 individuals per month who failed to use these new pathways, or their home country. At the same time, we will welcome up to 30,000 individuals per month from these four countries to come safely to live and work here for two years.

But this is important – if individuals from these countries attempt to cross the U.S. border without authorization, or the Mexico or Panama borders, after today, they will not be eligible for this new legal pathway. So, the message is clear – individuals should stay where they are and apply for these processes from there.

To be eligible, individuals need to (1) pass rigorous security vetting; (2) have a supporter in the United States who will provide financial and other support; and (3) complete vaccinations and other public health requirements.

Second, we are creating an appointment system for individuals to seek entry at our ports of entry.  Just like the parole program, this can be done on one’s smart phone with an app called CBP One.  The app is designed to discourage individuals from congregating near the border and creating unsafe conditions.  Initially this process will be available for those seeking an exception from the Title 42 order for humanitarian reasons. 

After the Title 42 order is lifted, this scheduling mechanism will be available for noncitizens, including those who seek to claim asylum, to schedule a time to present themselves at a port of entry for inspection and processing, rather than arriving unannounced at a port of entry or attempting to cross in-between ports of entry. Those who use this process will generally be eligible for employment authorization while they are in the United States.

The CBP One app will be available in English and Spanish, and we are working on other languages.  Through technology and lawful processes, we are transforming how migration is managed at our border.   

But let me again be clear – those who fail to use lawful processes will face consequences.  To that end, we are increasing and enhancing the use of expedited removal under Title 8 authorities for those who cannot be processed under the Title 42 public health order.  These efforts include surging personnel and resources and enrolling individuals under the asylum processing interim final rule published in March 2022. 

As a complement to these efforts, in response to the unprecedented surge in migration across the hemisphere and to reduce encounters at our border, DHS and the Department of Justice intend to issue a proposed rule to provide that individuals who circumvent available, established pathways to lawful migration, and also fail to seek protection in a country through which they traveled on their way to the United States, will be subject to a rebuttable presumption of asylum ineligibility in the United States unless they meet exceptions that will be specified. Individuals who cannot establish a valid claim to protection under the standards set out in the new rule will be subject to prompt removal under Title 8 authorities, which carries a five-year ban on reentry. DHS and DOJ will invite public comment on the proposed rule, and more information will be available in the coming weeks. 

Overall, through today’s announcements, we are strengthening the availability of legal, orderly pathways to the United States while imposing consequences on those who fail to use pathways made available to them by the United States and our regional partners.

We will continue to monitor developments on the Southwest border and will accelerate or implement additional measures, as needed, consistent with applicable court orders.

We are a nation of immigrants, and we are a nation of laws.  We are devoted to providing humanitarian relief for those who qualify – it is one of our country’s proudest traditions – and we are committed to enforcing our laws to hold accountable those who do not establish a legal basis to remain.

As President Biden has done since his first day in office, we again call on Congress to legislate to provide sufficient resources to manage increased encounters at the border and to fix the immigration system everyone agrees is terribly broken.  Absent Congressional action, we will do what we can using the authorities and resources available to us to manage the border in a safe, orderly, and humane manner.  We are able to do so because of our extraordinary personnel. 

Thank you. I will be pleased to take your questions.

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