Mayorkas defends Biden administration’s immigration program

(NewsNation) — Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas defended the Biden administration’s immigration policies in Florida, even as the state is suing the government over those policies.

The administration said Jan. 5 that it would admit up to 30,000 people a month from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela for two years with authorization to work. Applicants must have a sponsor in the U.S. and go through a screening process. They must also pay for their own flights to the U.S.

So far, 1,700 Cubans, Nicaraguans and Haitians have reached the United States on humanitarian parole under the policy changes announced this month, and thousands more from those three countries have been approved, administration officials told reporters on a conference call on condition of anonymity. The number of Venezuelans was not immediately available.

Mayorkas credited the policy with a drop in encounters at the southern border.

“It is still early, but we’ve seen an almost 90 percent drop. Why these states would oppose an enforcement to a program that is proving successful is beyond comprehension,” he said.

Mayorkas did not respond to questions from NewsNation on whether or not President Joe Biden planned to visit the Florida keys and get an on-the-ground look at the situation.

Florida has seen a dramatic increase in migrants coming from Cuba, mostly via boat. The COVID-19 pandemic worsened conditions in Cuba, and the country also suffers from the impact of U.S. sanctions. The U.S. has had an embargo with Cuba since 1962.

Customs and Border Protection agents and the U.S. Coast Guard attempt to intercept boats before they can make landfall in South Florida, where the country’s capitol lies roughly 90 nautical miles from Key West.

Intercepting migrants at sea can be a challenge as it is often difficult for agents to spot migrant boats until they are very close.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis activated Florida’s National Guard to deal with the influx, noting that processing those who make it to land is a long process that has put a strain on the state’s resources.

Mayorkas said the issue is a personal one for him, as he and his family immigrated from Cuba. When asked about Florida’s complaints, he stated the federal government is offering resources to help.

“We have surged for example resources from the U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. border protection resources to make sure people do not take to the seas,” Mayorkas said.

Florida has joined 19 other states suing the Biden administration over the program, which they claim the administration doesn’t have the legal authority to roll out and which they say is causing a humanitarian crisis for states along the border.

“It is remarkable to me, that states will attack a solution to the problem about which they complain,” Mayorkas said.

The Biden administration has pushed back on criticisms of immigration policy changes by urging Congress to pass a comprehensive reform package that would address longstanding issues.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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