But on Wednesday, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said, “We are doing so much to tackle the challenge at the border.”
“And it is, indeed, a challenge,” Mayorkas told CNN’s Jake Tapper — after Tapper told him the border issue seems like “a real vulnerability for President Biden going into the 2024 election.”
“Fundamentally, what we need is new legislation to fix what everyone agrees is a broken immigration system. That is the fundamental problem,” Mayorkas said:
“But within a broken immigration system, we are doing so much.
“On January 5, most recently, we implemented policies that provide a safe, lawful and orderly way for individuals from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela and to arrive in the United States and not place their lives in the hands of ruthless smugglers.
“We have seen the populations from those four countries drop more than 95 percent in terms of encounters at the Southern border, and people are accessing the lawful way to come to the United States, the safe way. That is the model that we are embracing, that we are implementing, and it is proving successful.”
But Tapper pushed back:
“Your critics — and they’re not only Republicans — say that the border is just a catastrophe. The facts are that cities are overwhelmed with the humanitarian needs of migrants.
“The numbers of people crossing illegally are at record levels. Fentanyl is being smuggled across the border, mostly by American citizens, we should note, and that fentanyl is going into the country and killing thousands of Americans,” Tapper said.
“These are major crises. Other than legislation, what do you need to address them better? Is there really nothing, no other tools in your arsenal?” Tapper asked.
Mayorkas said his critics “are conflating the challenge of migration and the challenge of fentanyl for political purposes.”
“But the fact of the matter is, the migrants whom we encounter in-between the ports of entry are not the primary means by which fentanyl is coming into the United States.”
Mayorkas said most of the fentanyl is being smuggled through ports of entry.
“And this has been a challenge, not just over the last two years, he said.
“We, unfortunately, have seen tragedy at the hands of fentanyl for quite a number of years now. It’s been growing year over year. The immigration system has been a challenge, and we do need fundamental legislative reform.
“In the meantime, we’re doing what we can within our administrative authorities. With respect to fentanyl and the tragedy that arises from its use, we have been surging resources since day one. We have been attacking the trafficking organizations, the people, their instrumentalities, their financial methods.
“This is an all-of-government effort. And we’re only continuing in that effort, not just domestically, but with our international partners, et al. There are two primary elements to the battle against fentanyl — the supply side and the demand side. And those are not exclusive of one another.
“And that has been the challenge in the war on drugs for decades. Fentanyl poses a unique challenge. You know, in my first 12 years of government, I was a federal prosecutor. I did — I prosecuted traffickers of marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, black tar heroin.
“We have not seen anything like fentanyl. It is chemically made, it is synthetic, it is highly addictive, and it is fatal. We have got to really educate the American public about it. We have got to tackle the demand for controlled substances. And, at the same time, we have got to attack the traffickers of this poison.
“And that is indeed what we are doing.”
Tapper left it there and moved on to another topic.
Biden expands parole program for 30,000 migrants a month
On January 5, President Biden announced that a parole program initially intended just for Venezuelans would also apply to migrants from Cuba, Nicaragua and Haiti — giving 30,000 migrants every month a way to come into the United States without simply showing up at the border.
“If you’re trying to leave Cuba, Nicaragua, or Haiti…do not just show up at the border. Stay where you are and apply legally from there,” Biden said.
“Starting today, if you don’t apply through the legal process, you will not be eligible for this new parole program. Let me reiterate: You need a lawful sponsor in the United States of America, number one. And you need to undergo a rigorous background check, number two.
“If your application is approved and you show up at — at a U.S. airport or when and where directed…you have access. But if your application is denied or you attempt to cross into the United States unlawfully, you will not be allowed to enter.
“Look, we should all recognize that as long as America is the land of freedom and opportunity, people are going to try to come here. And that’s what many of our ancestors did, and it’s no surprise that it’s happening again today.
“We can’t stop people from making the journey, but we can require them to come here, and they — that they come here in an orderly way under U.S. law.”
Republicans say the mass parole program is backdoor amnesty. They note that parole should be granted on a case-by-case basis.
In a January 18, 2023 letter to Mayorkas, a group of Republicans said the new mass parole of 30,000 migrants a month is unlawful and would serve as another “pull factor” for migrants.
“So you already have a wide open border,” Sen. J.D. Vance (R-Ohio) told Fox News in January.
“You already have the message spread across Central America that America is effectively open for business, we have no border. And on top of that, you’re telling a large number of people that a lot of them are going to get parole from violating our immigration laws. There is no legal authority for it, but it will make this border crisis even worse.”
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