A possible influx of thousands of migrants at the southwestern U.S. border later this month will place “an extraordinary strain on our system,” the Homeland Security chief acknowledged Sunday, while reminding migrants that “our border is not open” and that they should not attempt to get into the United States.
Federal immigration authorities daily apprehend some 7,000 migrants trying to cross the northern Mexican border. U.S. officials say the figure could reach 18,000 daily if they are allowed to end a medical protocol that currently forces those infected with the coronavirus to remain in Mexico. The protocol, known as Title 42, is set to expire May 23.
The administration wants to end enforcement of the rule but says it will honor a federal judge’s decision last week to keep it in place pending further court hearings.
Homeland Security chief Alejandro Mayorkas told CNN’s “State of the Union” show that his agency has been preparing for months to handle the expected influx of migrants, while acknowledging the difficulty of doing so.
Numerous Republican and Democratic lawmakers have expressed fears in recent days that the thousands more migrants expected at the border in the next few weeks will overwhelm border officials.
“We need countries to our south to handle their borders,” Mayorkas said.
As it stands now, he said migrants trying to get into the U.S. are “either expelled” under the coronavirus provisions or “they are placed in our immigration enforcement proceedings” and required to report for hearings on whether they can remain in the U.S. Mayorkas told “Fox News Sunday” that about 86% of the migrants appear for their scheduled immigration court hearings.
Over the years, millions of migrants released into the U.S. remain for years although there is always a threat for them of being arrested and deported.
He told CNN that migrants “should not place their lives at risk in the hands of smugglers who exploit their lives for the mere purpose of profit.”
On Fox, Mayorkas said, “It is the objective of the Biden administration to make sure that we have safe, legal and orderly pathways for individuals to be able to access our legal system. We are against irregular migration.”