EAGLE PASS – U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas spoke with KSAT during his visit to Eagle Pass, Texas, a small border community whose residents say has been overwhelmed by migrant crossings.
The secretary’s visit comes weeks after what elected leaders called a “historic” surge in migrants.
U.S. Border Patrol shut down bridges to process the thousands of men, women and children who crossed the Rio Grande into Eagle Pass.
Several business owners blame that closure for tanking profits during a usually busy holiday shopping season.
Many Eagle Pass residents are frustrated with the situation, saying the federal government has failed to help relieve the problem.
KSAT asked Mayorkas what he would say to them.
“Well, I would say that we have done quite a bit, but what we need is fundamentally Congress to act,” responded Mayorkas. “The frustration is justified because this country, the United States of America, has been dealing with a broken immigration system, an outdated system, for more than three decades. And we need that system fixed. It is precisely why the president, on day one of his administration, submitted to Congress proposed legislation.”
KSAT reporter Daniela Ibarra asked, “A lot of these border communities feel like they’re caught in the middle of the border literally and immigration policy. What would you say to [those] who want a solution?”
“They are right in wanting a solution. Unfortunately, the issue of immigration is a very politicized one,” Mayorkas said. “And if merit would control the day, if substance would control the day, if the well-being of our communities on the border and throughout the United States control the day, we would long ago have had immigration reform. We need it now. And I’m incredibly proud to have been working at the table in a bipartisan way with Republican and Democratic senators to come up with a solution that Congress can and should pass to fix the system.”
Some Eagle Pass residents believe the solution to the crisis is shutting down the border to migrants.
Mayorkas told KSAT there are laws that have to be enforced.
“One set of laws is the asylum system that enables an individual who arrives irregularly at our southern border to make a claim for humanitarian relief,” Mayorkas said. “We place those individuals in immigration enforcement proceedings, and unfortunately, because our system is broken, it takes six-plus years between the time of encounter and the time that individuals claim for relief is finally judged and determined to be either valid or invalid. And if invalid, that individual is removed.”
During KSAT’s several visits to the border, neighbors in Eagle Pass have said they worry about not knowing those who cross into the country.
“What would you say to the American people who are scared?” asked Ibarra.
“The vast majority of individuals surrender themselves to the United States Border Patrol so that they can be placed in immigration enforcement proceedings and so that they can make their claims for relief under our laws. That is the vast majority of people,” Mayorkas responded.
Mayorkas’ visit comes less than a week after more than 60 House Republicans stopped in Eagle Pass.
One of those representatives is Mark Green (R-TN), the Homeland Security committee chairman.
“The greatest domestic threat to the national security and the safety of the American people is Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas,” said Green, just feet away from the Rio Grande.
Mayorkas said the following when KSAT asked him for his response:
“I was pleased that there were so many House members here on the border so that they can see the challenge that this community and other communities along the border encounter and so that they can return to Washington and fix the broken immigration system.”