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Friday, June 2, 2023

‘Our Border Is Not Open’: Mayorkas Details DHS Response Including New Asylum Rule as Title 42 Ends

An ad campaign to counter smugglers' lies, a new CBP One appointment scheduling system, surging personnel, and more announced as "we are clear-eyed about the challenges we are likely to face."

The Department of Homeland Security is bracing for an expected surge of migrants at the southwest border this week with a new rule on asylum, additional personnel deployed to the region, support extended to communities affected, collaboration with other Western Hemisphere nations, and new messaging to deter migrants from believing or using the services of smugglers.

“The lifting of the Title 42 public health order does not mean our border is open — in fact, it is the contrary,” Mayorkas said today at a press conference at DHS headquarters in Washington.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Title 42 public health order, which allowed the rapid expulsion of migrants who crossed at U.S. land borders in an effort to control the spread of COVID-19, expires Thursday at 11:59 p.m. At that point, U.S. Customs and Border Protection will once again enforce immigration admissibility using Title 8.

Mayorkas said that those who cross illegally under Title 8 will face “tougher consequences” and stressed that CBP will continue to return or expel the “vast majority” of migrants encountered at or between lawful points of entry.

The new asylum rule, crafted after receiving more than 50,000 public comments on the proposal, from DHS and the Department of Justice “presumes those who do not use lawful pathways to enter the United States are ineligible for asylum and allows the United States to remove individuals who do not establish a reasonable fear of persecution or torture in the country of removal,” DHS said. That does not apply to a noncitizen who received authorization to come to the U.S. to seek parole, those who scheduled a CBP One  appointment to present themselves at a point of entry, those who establish that they were unable to use the CBP One app, those who sought and were denied asylum in another country, and unaccompanied children. “Individuals may also rebut the presumption by demonstrating exceptionally compelling circumstances,” DHS said.

Mexico has committed to continue receiving migrants returned for not follow existing parole processes in place for certain countries. Mayorkas noted that more than 100,000 people have arrived lawfully in the country under the parole process established for Venezuelans in October and expanded in January to Cubans, Haitians, and Nicaraguans, while border encounters with those groups have dropped 90 percent from December through March.

Individuals removed under Title 8 face at least a 5-year bar on re-entry and can face criminal prosecution if they try to cross again. Migrants will be given the option to voluntarily return to the country they came from because of the steep consequence of removal. If they do not take that option and they do not claim fear of persecution in their home country, they will be removed immediately. If they do claim fear, Mayorkas said that these asylum-seekers will face a “higher threshold” under the new rule by not taking a legal pathway to claim asylum.

Mayorkas said he’s aware that smugglers are telling migrants other things. “They are lying,” he said. “The smugglers care only about profit, not people.”

“Do not believe their lies,” the secretary warned those hoping to come to the United States. “Do not risk your life and your life savings only to be removed from the United States if and when you arrive here.”

A digital advertising campaign disseminating that message to a target migrant audience in Central and South America and the Caribbean is being launched by the State Department and DHS. Mayorkas said this would add to existing “extensive communications efforts” in critical regions. “We are making it very clear that our border is not open,” he said. “Do not listen to the lies of smugglers.” Referencing images of removal flights and noting that dozens are happening per week, he emphasized that “this is what will happen to you — you will be returned.”

Mayorkas said the department has been preparing for the transition away from Title 42 since 2021, including the “first increase in Border Patrol hiring in over a decade” and surging 1,400 DHS personnel, 1,000 processing coordinators, and 1,500 Defense Department personnel to border operations to “allow officers to stay in the field” and focus on unlawful entry; the first 550 troops will be in place in El Paso today. DHS and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services are surging asylum officers to Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facilities to conduct an “unprecedented” number of asylum screenings. CBP opened two new holding facilities this week and the Department of Health and Human Services is increasing capacity to shelter a potential influx of unaccompanied minors.

The use of the CBP One app, which allows travelers and stakeholders to access CBP mobile applications and services, was expanded in January to let migrants approaching the southwest border make an appointment at a point of entry to seek an exemption to Title 42. Through the app, they can submit certain biographic and biometric information to CBP and make an appointment up to 14 days in advance at the ports of entry in Nogales, Brownsville, Eagle Pass, Hidalgo, Laredo, El Paso, Calexico or San Ysidro. Mayorkas noted that in the first four months 83,000 individuals have made appointments through the app. Today, CBP One transitioned to a new appointment scheduling system with additional time to request and confirm appointments — an effort to help those with limited connectivity — and prioritization of those who have waited longest for appointments.

The State Department will be opening about 100 regional processing centers at key points through the Western Hemisphere to “direct migrants to lawful pathways early in their journey and well before reaching the southwest border,” the agencies said, with an online portal to schedule appointments.

“We are clear-eyed about the challenges we are likely to face in the days and weeks ahead, which are likely to be very difficult,” Mayorkas said, adding that CBP is “already seeing a high number of encounters in certain sectors.” This puts “incredible strain” on the agency, he stressed.

The secretary said it would take “time for results to be fully realized” from the administration’s actions. “Our current situation is the outcome of Congress leaving a broken, outdated system in place for over two decades,” he added, chiding lawmakers for their “decision to not provide us with resources we need and requested.”

Mayorkas said the department is focusing on “safe, orderly, humane” migration and  protecting their “dedicated workforce” and communities near the border.

“We are a nation of immigrants,” Mayorkas said. “We are also a nation of laws.” Because those laws are “outdated,” he said, the department must rely on “short-term solutions to a decades-old problem.” The “kind of migration we see today” requires more recourses and clearer authority, he reiterated.

“We are seeing an unprecedented amount of migration in our hemisphere,” Mayorkas said, emphasizing the need to “cut the smugglers out” of the process and “reach migrants where they are with lawful pathways.”

“We are building lawful pathways for you to come to the United States,” he told migrants. “Do not place your life and your life’s savings in the hands of smugglers.”

Bridget Johnson
Bridget Johnson is the Managing Editor for Homeland Security Today. A veteran journalist whose news articles and analyses have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe, Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor and a foreign policy writer at The Hill. Previously she was an editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and syndicated nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. Bridget is a terrorism analyst and security consultant with a specialty in online open-source extremist propaganda, incitement, recruitment, and training. She hosts and presents in Homeland Security Today law enforcement training webinars studying a range of counterterrorism topics including conspiracy theory extremism, complex coordinated attacks, critical infrastructure attacks, arson terrorism, drone and venue threats, antisemitism and white supremacists, anti-government extremism, and WMD threats. She is a Senior Risk Analyst for Gate 15 and a private investigator. Bridget is an NPR on-air contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, New York Observer, National Review Online, Politico, New York Daily News, The Jerusalem Post, The Hill, Washington Times, RealClearWorld and more, and has myriad television and radio credits including Al-Jazeera, BBC and SiriusXM.

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