(CNN) — The secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Alejandro Mayorkas, acknowledged on Tuesday that the agency “has not seen a significant decrease” in migrants arriving at the border between Mexico and the United States despite their efforts to restrict the flow.
“We’re seeing a seven-day average of over 7,500 people, so we haven’t seen a significant decrease in flows,” Mayorkas said in an exclusive interview with CNN’s Priscilla Alvarez.
In April, the US Border Patrol apprehended border crossers 201,800 times, down 4% from March, according to data just released by US Customs and Border Protection. , the numbers remain historically high, straining resources.
The secretary, who was in Texas for a border visit, also said his agency was working with Mexico to prepare for a potential surge of migrants at the southern border if a Trump-era pandemic restriction is lifted this month. .
“We are working very closely with our partners to the south, with Mexico, in anticipation of a potential surge in a post-Title 42 environment,” he said, citing information sharing, patrolling along the border and interdiction of smugglers. .
Mayorkas’ remarks come amid uncertainty about the future of the pandemic restriction known as Title 42. The public health authority, which allows officials to turn away migrants at the US-Mexico border, is scheduled to end May 23, but an ongoing lawsuit may thwart those plans. The department has been actively preparing for a possible surge in migrants when the authority is lifted, Mayorkas has said.
This planning includes reaching agreements with the countries of the region from which the migrants come or pass through. DHS is working to reach immigration agreements with many countries, although those agreements may vary by country, Mayorkas told CNN. The United States has already reached agreements with Costa Rica and Panama.
Asked if DHS is prepared to increase deportations should Title 42 be lifted, Mayorkas replied, “Yes, we are,” emphasizing his department’s plans to “expand the use of expedited removal.” “.
“Those who cross the border recently are, in fact, a priority for the application of the guidelines that I issued on September 30 of last year,” Mayorkas said. “And so there will be consequences.”
DHS has previously outlined plans to expand the use of a quick removal procedure known as “expedited removal,” which allows immigration authorities to remove an individual without a hearing before an immigration judge. People subject to deportation, including expedited removal, are typically barred from entering the US for five years.
“The fact is, if you qualify for help, you can stay here in the United States. That’s what the law says. If you can’t, you’re expelled and removed as quickly as possible. That’s the model that we follow. That is the model that the law contemplates,” Mayorkas said, adding that the Biden administration is working with countries to speed up the process.
Border Patrol officials told Mayorkas Tuesday that the reintroduction of consequences for illegal border crossings could reduce the number of illegal crossings by single adults, which have increased, according to a reporter traveling with the secretary.
The rejection of the Republican Party to the management of the border
Amid efforts to prepare for a surge, the administration has grappled with pushback from Republicans over handling the border. Last month, Texas began busing migrants released from custody to Washington on a voluntary basis, after launching its own border operation.
“We have a long history of cooperation with state and local officials. What helps us is continuing that cooperation and collaboration,” Mayorkas told CNN.
“When the patrols are coordinated by the [Departamento de Seguridad Pública], the state authorities, with our border patrol authorities, that is a force multiplier effect. When they are uncoordinated and uncooperative, it could be quite detrimental to our efforts and interfere with our law enforcement efforts, and possibly make it easier for our adversaries,” he added.
Some Republicans have also recently linked the situation at the border to a shortage of baby formula across the country. Last week, Republican Congresswoman Kat Cammack of Florida tweeted a photo in which he claimed that there was baby formula at a border facility, which seemed to suggest that migrants should not have access to formula.
Mayorkas called the argument “disgusting from a humanitarian perspective.”
“First of all, we have a law that we must abide by, and we adhere to the law as law enforcement needs and must,” he said.
“There is an operative decision of the courts that requires us to take care of minors in our custody and control. And in fact, the previous administration broke that law and was disciplined and subsequently complied with it.”
Border facilities often have baby formula on hand — and have for years — as families are among those crossing the southern border of the United States.