Deterrents alone will not be enough to slow the flow of migration to the southern border, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said on Friday, describing a level of extreme desperation in the southern hemisphere driving people to journey to the U.S.
“Deterrents alone will not solve the challenge of migration with respect to the United States — with respect to any country in the world that is experiencing it. And I have to tell you, it is gripping the entire hemisphere,” Mayorkas said during an interview with CBS’s Margaret Brennan during an event at the Council on Foreign Relations.
Mayorkas described desperation as the “greatest catalyst” for migration.
“One has to understand the level of desperation a parent feels when they are willing to send their child in the hands of smugglers to traverse a country or multiple countries only to encounter the challenge of the southern border of the United States,” he said.
“So the level of desperation would suggest that whatever deterrents we impose, whether it is a facility or otherwise, will not work alone.”
Mayorkas’s comments come after Biden administration officials reportedly debated reinstating family detention, a much-criticized policy that was in large part replaced by alternative policies that allow asylum-seeking families to wait out their immigration cases outside detention centers.
The secretary argued the country has to expand legal pathways for those wishing to come to the U.S., nodding to the creation of a recent program that allows those from Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Haiti to apply to come to the U.S. if they can secure a sponsor. The nations, until recently, had some of the highest migration at the southern border. While the policy allows some to enter the country, the group is still largely barred from seeking asylum while Title 42 remains in place.
Mayorkas said the administration would announce a plan next week for handling the end of Title 42, which will be officially rescinded on May 11 and is expected to lead to an increase in migration at the southern border.
While Republicans and some Democrats have called for maintaining the policy’s block on seeking asylum, Mayorkas explained Friday that Title 42 does not create an immigration enforcement record.
“It is not formally a removal from the United States. It’s an expulsion. And what that means is that when one is removed, one has a five-year bar from admission to the United States and one is expelled, one can try over and over again,” he said.
“There’s a great deal of recidivism. So while the expulsion is very facilitating in terms of speed, it is actually not delivering a consequence.”