The following is a transcript of an interview with Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas that aired Sunday, July 3, 2022, on “Face the Nation.”
MARGARET BRENNAN: Good morning and welcome to Face the Nation. Thank you for joining us this holiday weekend. We begin today with immigration and the win for the Biden administration last week in the Supreme Court; that of the ending of President Trump’s remain in Mexico policy. To discuss that and more we want to welcome Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to this broadcast. Mr. Secretary, good morning to you, happy early Fourth of July.
HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS: Good morning and the same wish to you, Margaret. Thank you.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So what happens now that “remain in Mexico” is going away? Are you ending this policy immediately? And what happens to those individuals in the encampments waiting right across the border?
SEC. MAYORKAS: Margaret, we were very pleased with the Supreme Court’s decision supporting our termination of the “remain in Mexico” program that the prior administration implemented. I have said from the beginning, that it has endemic flaws, and it has unjustifiable human costs. So now, in light of the favorable Supreme Court ruling, we have to wait for that ruling to reach the district court that issued an injunction preventing us from ending “remain in Mexico”. So we have several weeks to go before the district court lifts its injunction and until then, we are obligated by the district court’s ruling to continue to implement the remain in Mexico program and we will do so in accordance with law.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So those people will still have to wait in the camps on the Mexican side of the border, but what happens to them next?
SEC. MAYORKAS: So what will happen to them- right now they do have to remain in Mexico, and then we will actually continue with their immigration enforcement proceedings. Remember when people are encountered at the border, they are just not merely released into the United States. They are placed in immigration enforcement proceedings, and that is what will occur with these people. Their proceedings will continue in immigration court, where they will pursue their claims for asylum. And if those claims are unsuccessful, they will be swiftly removed from the United States.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So, Reuters is reporting that there are, right now, thousands of people who departed on Friday and are moving towards the U.S. border. What do you need right now? Do you need more personnel for customs and border control? Do you need more equipment to tackle these smugglers that are exploiting these people?
SEC. MAYORKAS: Margaret, we are working very closely with our partners to the south, with Mexico, that breaks up very often these caravans of individuals that seek to take that dangerous journey to reach our border, only to be met with the enforcement of our laws. We have said repeatedly and we continue to warn people not to take the dangerous journey. We saw so tragically in San Antonio, Texas, one of the possible tragic results of that dangerous journey and so many people don’t even make it that far in the hands of exploitative smugglers. And we continue to enforce immigration law, as is our legal responsibility. And so, these migrants receive false information from smugglers. They put their lives, their life savings, in the hands of these exploitative organizations, these criminal organizations that do not care for their lives and only seek to make a profit.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But- but you are saying right now, what I hear you saying is do not come but those words are not being heard people are moving right now. So the efforts to stop the root causes are not stopping them. This horrific trafficking the- the worst smuggling tragedy in U.S. history this week with those individuals found dead in that trailer truck, that’s not stopping people. Are you predicting that this is only going to get more significant from here that we’re going to go beyond the record surge in migrants?
SEC. MAYORKAS: No I am- I’m not predicting that at all. And in fact, in the wake of the San Antonio tragedy and our Homeland Security investigations- is the lead federal agency investigating what occurred and working with the United States Attorney’s Office in the prosecution of thus far four individuals who have been charged with that heinous crime. We’re working with our partners to the south because this is a regional challenge that requires a regional response. I last week spoke–
MARGARET BRENNAN: But, they got past U.S.- the U.S. border officials–
SEC. MAYORKAS: –Oh, so we have a multi layered approach. Margaret. We, of course, have our inspections at the port of entry with our sophisticated non-intrusive technology. We then have checkpoints that are staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The Laredo checkpoint in question. 10 to 14,000 vehicles pass through that checkpoint every day. This fiscal year alone–
MARGARET BRENNAN: So how did this smuggler get these people across? 53 people died.
SEC. MAYORKAS: These are very sophisticated transnational criminal organizations. They have evolved over the last 30 years. In the 90s I prosecuted them and they were much more rudimentary. Now, they are very sophisticated, using technology and they’re extraordinarily organized transnational criminal enterprises. And we are much more sophisticated using technology and personnel 24 hours a day. You know, we have saved more than 10,000 individuals this fiscal year alone and more than 400 vehicle inspections. So can a truck get through- through sophisticated means? Sometimes, yes. But I have to say, we have interdicted more drugs at the ports of entry than ever before. We’ve rescued more migrants. We’re seeing a challenge that is really regional, hemispheric in scope, and we’re addressing it accordingly.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mr. Secretary, I also want to ask you here at home about what we’ve seen in the past 24 hours. There’s been this back and forth between state and federal law enforcement regarding security to Supreme Court justices and protests outside their home. Does the threat go beyond picketing? Is it specific and credible?
SEC. MAYORKAS: So we have seen a heightened threat environment- environment over the last several months over a number of different volatile issues that galvanize people on different sides of each issue. We in the Department of Homeland Security, become involved when there’s a connectivity between the- the opposition to a particular view or an ideology of hate, a false narrative and violence. It is that connectivity to violence when we engage and we are very mindful that the Supreme Court’s decision in reversing and overturning Roe v. Wade has really heightened the threat environment and we have deployed resources to ensure the safety and security of the Supreme Court and the justices. We in the Department of Homeland Security have deployed personnel for that purpose. We do not condone violence and law enforcement will and has responded to acts of violence when people do not honor their freedom to protest peacefully, but instead violate the laws of our country and the states within it.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Before I let you go, I do want to ask you about what we saw this weekend up in Boston, a white supremacist group called Patriot Front marched through that city. They recently planned events, a riot in Idaho, you’re seeing this far right group the Proud Boys also disrupt events in California. How concerned are you right now about these militias?
SEC. MAYORKAS: Margaret, I have said and this has been echoed by the director of the FBI, that domestic violent extremism is one of the greatest terrorism-related threats that we face in the homeland today. Individuals spurred by ideologies of hate, false narratives personal grievances, to acts of violence, and it is that violence that we respond to, and we seek to of course, prevent. We are in a heightened threat environment–
MARGARET BRENNAN: So should funding and recruitment- should funding and recruitment and membership be considered prosecutable? I mean, you just put it in the context of terrorism. They’re not designated terror groups. How should Americans think of them?
SEC. MAYORKAS: No, it’s- it’s really the acts of violence and the- and the threats that harm individuals where law enforcement becomes involved. We of course protect vigorously individual’s right to express themselves peacefully, the First Amendment rights and that is something that we safeguard, but violence and threats of violence we do not condone.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mr. Secretary, thank you for your time today.
SEC. MAYORKAS: Thank you, Margaret.