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: Hello and welcome to Face the Nation. Thank you for joining us this holiday weekend. We begin today with immigration and the Biden administration’s victory last week in the Supreme Court; that of the end of President Trump’s stay policy in Mexico. To discuss this and more, we welcome Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to this show. Mr. Secretary, hello to you, happy start of July 14th.
HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS: Good morning and same wishes to you, Margaret. Thanks.
MARGARET BRENNAN: What happens now that “staying in Mexico” is going away? Are you ending this policy immediately? And what happens to those individuals in the encampments waiting just across the border?
SECOND. MAYORKAS: Margaret, we were very pleased with the Supreme Court’s decision supporting our termination of the “stay in Mexico” program implemented by the previous administration. I said from the start that it has endemic flaws and unjustifiable human costs. So now, in light of the Supreme Court’s favorable ruling, we have to wait for that ruling to reach the District Court which issued an injunction preventing us from ending “stay in Mexico”. We therefore have several weeks before the District Court lifts its injunction and until then, we are obligated by the District Court’s decision to continue to implement the Stay in Mexico program and we will do so in accordance with the law.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So these people will still have to wait in the camps on the Mexican side of the border, but what will happen to them next?
SECOND. MAYORKAS: So what will happen to them? Right now they have to stay in Mexico and then we will continue with their immigration enforcement procedures. Remember that when people are met at the border, they are simply not simply released back into the United States. They are placed in immigration enforcement proceedings, and that is what will happen with these people. Their proceedings will continue in immigration court, where they will pursue their asylum claims. And if these requests fail, they will be promptly removed from the United States.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So Reuters is reporting that there are, right now, thousands of people who left on Friday and are heading towards the US border. What do you need right now? Do you need more staff for customs and border control? Do you need more equipment to fight these smugglers who exploit these people?
SECOND. MAYORKAS: Margaret, we work very closely with our partners in the south, with Mexico, which very often breaks up these caravans of individuals who seek to make this dangerous journey to reach our border, to come up against the application of our laws . We have said this many times and we continue to warn people not to take the dangerous journey. We have seen so tragically in San Antonio, Texas one of the possible tragic outcomes of this dangerous journey and so many people don’t even make it that far at 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 the smugglers. They are putting their lives, their savings, into the hands of these exploitative organizations, these criminal organizations that don’t care about their lives and just want to make a profit.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But- but you’re saying right now, what I’m hearing you say is don’t come but those words aren’t being heard, people are moving right now. Thus, efforts to stop the root causes do not stop them. This horrible traffic, the worst smuggling tragedy in the history of the United States this week with these people found dead in this tractor-trailer, it doesn’t stop people. Do you predict that it will only become more important from here as we go beyond the record increase in migrants?
SECOND. MAYORKAS: No, I’m not predicting that at all. And in fact, in the aftermath of the San Antonio tragedy and our Homeland Security investigations – is the lead federal agency investigating what happened and working with the United States Attorney’s Office in the prosecution of four people charged with this heinous crime. . We work with our southern partners because it is a regional challenge that requires a regional response. I spoke last week–
MARGARET BRENNAN: But, they passed the United States, the American border authorities –
SECOND. MAYORKAS: – Oh, so we have a layered approach. Daisy. Of course, we carry out our inspections at the port of entry thanks to our sophisticated non-intrusive technology. Then we 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 this checkpoint every day. This exercise only–
MARGARET BRENNAN: So how did this smuggler get these people through? 53 people died.
SECOND. MAYORKAS: They are very sophisticated transnational criminal organizations. They have evolved over the past 30 years. In the 90s I pursued them and they were much more basic. Now they are very sophisticated, they use technology and they are extraordinarily organized transnational criminal enterprises. And we’re much more sophisticated using technology and 24-hour staff. You know, we saved over 10,000 people in this fiscal year alone and over 400 vehicle inspections. So, can a truck go through sophisticated means? Sometimes yes. But I must say that we have banned more drugs at ports of entry than ever before. We rescued more migrants. We see a challenge that is truly regional, hemispheric in scope, and we are responding to it accordingly.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mr. Secretary, I also want to ask you here at home what we’ve seen in the last 24 hours. There’s been this back and forth between state and federal law enforcement regarding the safety of Supreme Court justices and protests outside their homes. Does the threat go beyond picketing? Is it accurate and believable?
SECOND. MAYORKAS: So we’ve seen a heightened threat environment over the past few months on a number of different volatile issues that are galvanizing people on different sides of each issue. We at the Department of Homeland Security step in when there is a connection between opposition to a particular point of view or ideology of hatred, false narrative, and violence. It is this connectedness to violence when we engage and we are keenly aware that the Supreme Court’s decision to quash and overturn 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 at the Department of Homeland Security have deployed personnel for this purpose. We do not tolerate violence and the will of law enforcement and has responded to acts of violence when people do not honor their freedom to peacefully protest, but rather violate the laws of our country and the states within it.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Before I let you go, I want to ask you what we saw this weekend in Boston, a white supremacist group called the Patriot Front marched through that city. They’ve been planning events recently, a riot in Idaho, you see this far-right group, the Proud Boys, also disrupting events in California. How concerned are you currently about these militias?
SECOND. MAYORKAS: Margaret, I said and it was echoed by the director of the FBI, that domestic violent extremism is one of the greatest terrorism-related threats we face in the homeland today. Individuals driven by ideologies of hatred, false narratives, personal grievances, into acts of violence, and it is this violence that we respond to and of course seek to prevent. We are in an environment of heightened threat–
MARGARET BRENNAN: So funding and recruitment – should funding, recruitment and membership be considered actionable? I mean, you just put it in the context of terrorism. They are not designated terrorist groups. How should Americans think of them?
SECOND. MAYORKAS: No, it’s – it’s really the acts of violence and the – and the threats that harm individuals when law enforcement is involved. Of course, we vigorously protect the right of individuals to peaceful expression, First Amendment rights and that is something we protect, but we do not condone violence and threats of violence.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mr. Secretary, thank you for your time today.
SECOND. MAYORKAS: Thank you, Marguerite.