Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said that borders can’t be viewed “solely as the lines that mark national boundaries and that divide us from one another,” but as “a point of connection, as the place where the flows of people, goods, and ideas from different countries interact and intersect” — underscoring how border security is “best achieved through international partnerships.”
“Collectively, our nations are endowed with enviable natural resources, skilled workers and advanced manufacturing, robust trade pipelines, and a shared commitment to democracy and rule of law,” Mayorkas said in his Tuesday address to the Washington Conference on the Americas. “The challenges we face – together – are also complex. Climate change, migration, terrorism, and cybersecurity are all issues that do not respect borders.”
Mayorkas said the DHS vision considers “smart border management as a critical piece of our economic security and also as a tool for connection and economic development.”
“Security in, and the facilitation of, travel and trade are mutually reinforcing activities – the more we know about a person or cargo the faster it can move,” he said. “We must re-center our international relationships to focus on the economic imperative, which requires that we have secure global trade and transit pipelines; this will create more harmonious trade practices and give all of our economies a needed boost.”
The goal of “collective security,” the secretary said, acknowledges that “we need one another” and “our security and economic success are both inextricably linked to that of our friend and partner countries in the Americas.”
“Our vision for migration management and our immigration system is rooted in the belief that people should be treated with dignity and respect. This is not inconsistent with enforcing the law and securing our border,” Mayorkas said, stating that “the Border Patrol have performed heroically under challenging circumstances, but they know better than anyone that a Border Patrol facility is no place for a child.”
“I am proud of the Department and the interagency team that has mobilized on both family reunification and border management,” he said. “We know there is more work to be done. It is hard work, of course, but we do the hard work.”
Mayorkas said that “while the long-term goal of our efforts is a better life for people throughout the hemisphere — so that fewer individuals feel compelled to migrate irregularly in the first place — we recognize that, in the short-term, several initiatives are needed to provide protection to individuals closer to their homes.”
“We are developing these initiatives in concert with our regional partners, as well as several NGOs and international organizations, to ensure consistency, fairness, and accountability as we approach these problems in a unified way,” he said.
Mayorkas stressed the importance of cracking down on transnational criminal organizations that profit from human smuggling and trafficking, facilitating a “robust system of lawful trade and travel” including trusted traveler programs, developing modern port security and infrastructure “with an emphasis on the security of the Panama Canal,” and protecting the supply chain from malign foreign influences.
“Clearly, we have much work ahead. We are grateful to have a strong group of partners throughout the Americas and the Western Hemisphere,” he said. “Looking ahead, we remain committed to expanding our partnerships across the Americas in the service of our collective security and prosperity.”