BROWNSVILLE, Texas (Border Report) — Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas rounded out two days of touring the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas on Friday with a hardline message to migrants and smugglers not to head north, and a warning that U.S. asylum laws are soon changing with the end of Title 42.
“We will deliver consequences for individuals who arrive at our southern border irregularly,” Mayorkas told media on the dirt border levee overlooking an abandoned golf course in Brownsville, Texas.
This area has been the site of 30,000 migrant apprehensions since April 16 and most are Venezuelans, according to RGV Chief Patrol Agent Gloria Chavez. On Friday morning alone, the RGV Sector apprehended 2,300 asylum-seekers, most in Brownsville, Mayorkas said.
Mayorkas was joined by Chavez and Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz, along with a litany of border officials, state officials, law enforcement and other community leaders during the secretary’s two-day visit.
Mayorkas said prior to the sunset of Title 42 on May 11, U.S. asylum laws would be changing to make it harder for migrants to prove entry. Under Title 42, a public health order, border agents have the authority to expel any migrant who enters the country between ports of entry. The Trump administration implemented Title 42 as a way to stop the cross-border spread of COVID-19.
“Individuals who do not access lawful pathways will be presumed to be ineligible and will have a higher burden of proof,” Mayorkas said.
In response to a question from Border Report, Mayorkas said: “They will have to meet a higher threshold of truth.”
When pressed what exactly those standards would be during credible fear interviews, Mayorkas said the new rule would post “soon” in the Federal Register.
He repeatedly stressed that those who do not qualify will be expelled under Title 8 removal laws, which restrict them from re-entry for at least five years.
He said the Biden administration is working with Mexican officials to accept back more expelled Venezuelans. He said the reason for the high number of Venezuelans “is complicated,” but attributed it to a massive fire of an immigration facility in Juarez, Mexico, that prompted many Venezuelans to head east to the Gulf Coast. He said in the past two weeks, Mexico also has refused to accept back Venezuelans and that has spread among asylum-seekers who are streaming through the area.
When Title 42 ends, he admitted they expect thousands more to cross the southern border from Mexico.
“What we are expecting is indeed a surge and what we are doing is planning for different levels of a surge,” Mayorkas said.
He also announced Friday that over $332 million has been approved by the federal government to be given to assist communities that receive noncitizens who are released from DHS custody as they await the outcome of their immigration proceedings.
This is through FEMA’s Emergency Food and Shelter Program, and he said that an additional $360 million more soon also will be given out to help nonprofits that house and shelter migrants.
Chief Ortiz said the 1,500 U.S. military troops that the Department of Defense is sending to the border will go to El Paso. But Ortiz said he has the ability to redirect them to other regions, like Brownsville and the Rio Grande Valley if needed.