Republicans slammed Mayorkas in a Senate hearing this week for having what they believe is an open border policy, claiming he wouldn’t admit there was a “crisis” at the border.
John Sandweg, former acting ICE director under the Obama administration, said on NewsNation’s “Morning in America” that Mayorkas was dealt a difficult hand and is doing what he can to be aggressive in terms to find innovative responses.
The interview has been edited and paraphrased for length and clarity.
NewsNation: What exactly are the problems with the US immigration system that persists today?
Sandweg: The problem is, we’ve never financed the system appropriately that deal with asylum claims in the U.S. And so the migrants have learned that if you make an asylum claim, it could be years before DHS or the United States is in a position to deport you, due to these long-standing laws. The problem didn’t begin under the Biden administration. It began at the tail end of the Obama administration and continued to the Trump administration, and still today.
As the situation at the border changes, and as we saw these increases in asylum, we really just never funded the officers and judges who make those decisions about whether you have an asylum claim that those decisions are required before we can return you to your country, and that’s really the crux of the problem we face today.
NewsNation: What is the best way to address the immigration issue? What is the tangible first step?
Sandweg: I would like to see a surge of resources. Flood the zone with the rule of law — that is bring in judges and asylum officers who can quickly process these claims. Then, we can deport people quickly after they make the claim. When people see that making an asylum claim is not a ticket, a free pass to live in the United States for multiple years, but instead they go home quickly, I think you’re gonna see that the demand or the flow of the border will drop dramatically.
I don’t think we need to detain all these people. The problem is, there’s no court processes.
In May, the Biden administration is expected to explore new regulations that will limit the ability of asylum seekers to make a claim if they transit through a county like Mexico. Also, new approaches to divert traffic from the immediate border have been used.
NewsNation: Will the U.S. ever get past the backlog of asylum claims?
Sandweg: I think it’s going to be incredibly challenging to get through the backlog. Unfortunately, I think the better tactic here would be to focus on the new cases first so that we can stop the flow at the border. Then, we can start thinking about strategies of how we are going to deal with the backlog of cases and all that people have come in over the last, you know, seven years.
NewsNation: How should Secretary Mayorkas be responding to the issues at the southern border? And how do you feel that his hearings went in the last few days?
Sandweg: I think the Secretary is doing what he can. He has been aggressive in terms of trying to find innovative responses and approaches to dealing with the border. But the bottom line is politically, a lot of this is out of your control. The fact that Mexico doesn’t do a lot to try to limit the flow of people coming through their country to our border are things that are always out of the Secretary’s control. It doesn’t matter if it’s a Republican secretary or a Democratic secretary, they’re going to be held partially accountable for that flow. The political hand they’re dealt is so difficult.