Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas may have called the level of illegal immigration at the U.S.-Mexico border "unsustainable," but he is not taking immediate action to respond to the crisis, according to immigration experts.
In a surprising admission, the Biden administration’s top border official admitted earlier this month in private talks that “if our borders are the first line of defense, we’re going to lose, and this is unsustainable.”
The comment contradicted what Mayorkas said a day earlier in public — that the growing surge of people from around the world was “not new.”
“There's a lot of frustration, and with reason,” said Monica Weisberg-Stewart, the chairwoman of the Texas Border Coalition’s Committee on Border Security and Immigration.
The Texas Border Coalition, an organization comprised of mayors, county judges, corporations, and communities along the 1,250-mile state border with Mexico, is concerned that the Biden administration remains focused on its long-term policy changes that may stem the flow of people traveling to the border but has not done enough in the short-term.
TBC asked the Biden administration to pause all immigration at the southern border, which she characterized as a “drastic” move for the organization and indicative of how troubled border communities are by the daily releases of thousands of migrants onto the streets. Mayorkas did not pause immigration, but he pledged to hire 2,000 asylum officers so that migrants’ asylum claims can be decided at the border rather than years after they have been released into the United States and appear before a judge. Weisberg-Stewart said it was not enough.
“He wanted to hire 2,000 asylum officers. Get the ones that are already in our system that already know how to do this — get them down there now, yesterday. Get ‘em down there and start working on it because you don't have anywhere to put these individuals,” she said, referring to migrants released from custody.
Theresa Cardinal Brown, the managing director of immigration and cross-border policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center think tank in Washington, said the administration’s hands are tied to the extent that they cannot control who is arriving. However, the federal response has been minimal as monthly illegal immigration levels surpassed even those seen during the 2019 humanitarian crisis.
A White House official said the government is continuing to return those who cross illegally to Mexico under a public health policy known as Title 42. However, the administration is not returning most families due to Mexico’s unwillingness to take back migrants who are not Mexican.
The Supreme Court attempted to force the Biden administration’s hand and ordered Biden earlier this week to reinstate the Migration Protection Protocols, a program that forced all asylum-seekers to live in Mexico until their day in U.S. court. Its refusal to do so for Title 42 indicates it may once again say no.
“What are they doing in the short term? It sounds like they're doing more of the same,” Brown said. “When I say more of the same, it's continuing this idea that 'oh, we’ll have expedited removal.'"
Earlier this month, Biden turned to a process known as expedited removal, which allows the government to return migrants quickly to their home countries. However, migrants are not allowed legal proceedings, and anyone placed in this category has a right to seek asylum before being swiftly removed. By focusing on this approach, it could quickly increase the number of people who need to be held in custody because they have claimed asylum but must be removed soon. The government would have to find more detention space to hold the people who are seeking asylum, Brown said.
Both Brown and Weinberg-Stewart said the administration has taken a long-term approach that is not resolving the situation now. In addition, reforming a system long-term is not happening because the DHS is overwhelmed in responding to the surge.
“We appreciate the administration's blueprint for a fair and orderly and humane immigration system,” Weinberg-Stewart said. “Our problem with it is that it would take too long to implement, and they need to put it on fast forward.”
The White House official said the government is using planes to fly migrants to their home countries and to other parts of the border to deter them from returning and that the administration is addressing the root causes prompting the flow of people coming from Central America. Brown said resolving root problems in one region of the world when people from around the world are increasingly traveling to the border misses the mark, even if it was possible in the short term.
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Original Author: Anna Giaritelli
Original Location: Mayorkas called border crisis 'unsustainable,’ but swift response is lacking