(NewsNation) — Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas touted the Biden administration’s efforts to expand legal routes for immigration while promising harsh consequences for those who seek to enter the country illegally, as officials brace for a flood of migrants.
Speaking at a White House press briefing, Mayorkas called Congress out for failing to pass meaningful immigration reform while also promising harsh consequences for migrants who attempt to cross the border illegally after Title 42 ends.
“The reason we are here is Congress leaving a broken, outdated system in place for two decades,” Mayorkas said.
Title 42 is a public health measure that allows border agents to turn migrants away at the border, suppressing the legal right to seek asylum in times where there is a concern over a contagious disease. Reinstated by former President Donald Trump during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is set to end at 11:59 p.m. Thursday as the COVID-19 emergency also officially ends.
Title 42 will be replaced by Title 8, an existing policy that allows for the enforcement of immigration laws. Mayorkas stressed that any migrants who attempt to cross without following proper process will be assumed to be ineligible for asylum and will be removed.
Those who are removed will have a five-year ban on reentering the U.S. and could face criminal charges if they attempt to cross again during that time. Mayorkas said that contrary to what migrants may have heard from smugglers, the U.S. border is not open.
“Do not risk your life and your life savings only to be removed from the U.S. if and when you arrive here,” he warned.
Mayorkas outlined new policies, including those that would apply to asylum seekers. He talked up the CBP One app the department has introduced that allows those seeking asylum to make appointments at ports of entry and warned that those who do not use legal pathways will be presumed ineligible for asylum.
Citing the successes of a parole program, currently limited to five countries, Mayorkas said President Joe Biden has led the largest expansion of legal pathways in decades, along with increasing the number of agents at the border.
“We are a nation of immigrants and we are a nation of laws,” Mayorkas said. “We are doing everything possible to enforce those laws in a safe, orderly, humane way.”
He closed by again calling on Congress to deliver a plan, noting that all of the rules put in place would take time to show results.
“This is an ongoing problem that has vexed this country for decades, because Congress has been unable to pass immigration reform that everyone agrees and understand is needed,” Mayorkas said.