Fox News anchor Chris Wallace grilled Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Sunday over President Joe Biden’s national security and humanitarian catastrophe on the U.S.-Mexico border.
On “Fox News Sunday,” Wallace pressed Mayorkas on a wide range of issues related to the crisis, including why the administration didn’t stop up to 30,000 migrants from illegally coming into the U.S., why they haven’t built a wall, and what they are doing about the remain in Mexico policy.
The following are 5 moments from the interview, in chronological order, where Wallace pressed Mayorkas hard about the crisis on the U.S.-Mexico border (transcript and videos included):
1. Wallace presses Mayorkas on how many migrants have been released into the U.S.
WALLACE: I want to start with those 30,000 Haitian migrants who came across the border into Del Rio, Texas, since September 9, as you say. You say that 12,400 will have their cases heard by an immigration judge and another 5,000 are being processed by your department. Mr. Secretary, of those 17,400, how many have been released into the U.S. and how many more potentially could be released into the U.S.?
MAYORKAS: So, Chris, about 3,000 are actually in detention, and we make those detention determinations in the best interest of the American public. Others are in immigration court proceedings. They are monitored by us. We impose conditions upon them so we keep in touch with them and ensure their appearance in court, as the law requires.
WALLACE: But to answer my question directly, of the 17,400 that weren’t deported back or didn’t return on their own to Mexico, how many of them either — well, first, how many have been released into the U.S.?
MAYORKAS: They’re released on conditions.
MAYORKAS: Approximately, I think it’s about 10,000 or so, 12,000.
WALLACE: Have been released?
WALLACE: And of the 5,000 that are still in process?
MAYORKAS: We will make determinations whether they will be returned to Haiti based on our public health and public interest authorities.
WALLACE: So, are we talking about a total of 12,000 or could it be even higher?
MAYORKAS: It could — it could be even higher. The number that are returned could be even higher. What we do is we follow the law as Congress has passed it.
WALLACE: But let’s drill down on more than 12,000 migrants who you say that you’re going to keep surveillance over but they are being released into this country.
MAYORKAS: Chris, that’s what the law requires.
WALLACE: I understand.
MAYORKAS: If, in fact, someone is not expelled under the public health authority of the Centers for Disease Control, then they are placed in immigration enforcement proceedings. They have an opportunity to make their claim for relief to a judge as the law requires.
WALLACE: I understand all of that. But let’s talk about what it’s going to happen to those 12,000. Removal proceedings, including asylum cases, can take anywhere from six months to several years, and 44 percent, according to the Department of Justice, 44 percent of those who are released into custody – from custody — miss their court hearings. Just as a matter of reality, won’t many of those thousands of people end up settling here in the United States, some of them permanently?
MAYORKAS: Chris, we have enforcement guidelines in place that provide that individuals who are recent border crossers who do not show up for their hearings are enforcement priorities, and will be removed. And that is one of our —
WALLACE: And do you remove all of them or do some of them disappear into the country?
MAYORKAS: Well, we — it is our intention to remove them, that is what our policies are, and we deploy our enforcement resources according to certain priorities to ensure the safety and security of the American people.
WALLACE: But, sir, there are more than 11 million people in this country illegally. Clearly, despite your best efforts, millions of people end up in this country and don’t just disappear.
MAYORKAS: Chris, 11 million people in this country without lawful presence is a compelling reason why there is unanimity about the fact that our immigration system is broken and legislative reform is needed.
2. Wallace presses Mayorkas over the fact that the border crisis has worsened under Biden and notes that approximately 25,000 more migrants are headed to the U.S. border.
WALLACE: According to internal documents, your department is now tracking a lot more people, including Haitians, who are on their way up from South America, Central America, to cross the border into this country. I want to put up the numbers: 20,000 Haitians in Columbia, 3,000 in Peru, and 1,500 in Panama. In May, the Biden administration extended temporary protected status for the 150,000 Haitians already living in the U.S. and now as you’ve said, you have released another more than 12,000 into the country. Our next guest, Texas Governor Abbott, traveled to Del Rio, to the site of that bridge and the 15,000 people huddled under the bridge this week, and here’s what he had to say, take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R), TEXAS: When you have an administration that has abandoned any pretense of securing the border and securing our sovereignty, you see the onrush of people like what we saw walking across this dam that is right behind me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Hasn’t this administration created a magnet? Haven’t you given Haitians, and a million more immigrants will you have an encounter with since Joe Biden came into office, haven’t you given them a reason to believe there’s a reasonable chance if they come into this country, they’ll end up being released into the country and have months or perhaps years to stay here?
MAYORKAS: Chris, this is nothing new. We’ve seen this type of irregular migration many, many times throughout the years. I don’t know if Governor Abbott said the same thing in 2019 when there were more than a million people encountered at the southern border.
WALLACE: It has gotten worse. The statistics of your own department show that the flood of people coming illegally across the border has gotten worse under the Biden demonstration.
MAYORKAS: So, I wouldn’t call it a flood, if I may.
WALLACE: What would you call it?
MAYORKAS: But we — we have seen large numbers of individuals encountered at our border making a claim for asylum, for humanitarian relief, which is a statute, which is a law of the United States that individuals can make a claim, a fear of persecution by reason of their membership in a particular social group. That’s what the law provides. This — we are certainly seeing a large number here in this year, but in 2019, we saw a large number. In 2014, in 2010. This is nothing new. It spans many, many years. It spans different administrations of both parties, and it speaks to the need for legislative reform.
3. Wallace grills Mayorkas over why the administration did not stop the migrants from illegally entering the U.S. and why they haven’t built a wall on the southern border.
WALLACE: But I want to get to this question about asylum-seekers having to come over in a minute. But I want to talk first because you say, well, nothing has changed. You had — I mean, I think what was so dramatic about these last two weeks is that, yes, there is a trickle of people to come across, but to see 30,000 people in 17 days come across the border into one location and be hiding under that — huddling under that bridge, you say 30,000 people walked across that dam into Del Rio in the last 17 days. Question: why didn’t you stop them?
MAYORKAS: Oh. So, we encountered them at the border. That’s where we encountered them, Chris. And you know what? We saw indeed a large number of people cross at one particular part of the border in a short period of time. And what did we do? We surged our resources; we surged our personnel and —
WALLACE: Why didn’t — why didn’t you stop them from coming into the country?
MAYORKAS: We — we did. We encountered them, they gathered — they assembled in that one location in Del Rio, Texas, and we applied the laws. We applied the public health law under the CDC’s authority, and we applied immigration law.
WALLACE: My question is why did you allow them in the country in the first place? Why didn’t you build — forgive me, a wall or a fence to stop them from walking, this flood of people coming across the dam, it looks like a highway that allows them to cross the Rio Grande.
MAYORKAS: It is the policy of this administration. We do not agree with the building of the wall. The law provides that individuals can make a claim for humanitarian relief. That is actually one of our proudest traditions.
4. Wallace questions Mayorkas on how many illegal aliens his department screened for COVID-19.
WALLACE: Of the 30,000 Haitians who came across the border into Del Rio, how many did your department test for COVID?
MAYORKAS: So we have strict COVID testing protocols that we apply across the board. We test, isolate, and quarantine unaccompanied children. We work with nonprofit organizations to test families. Those who are in ICE custody are tested, isolated, and quarantine. Those who are expelled under the Title 42 Public Health Authority are returned immediately. They are not placed in immigration court proceedings, and those we do not test, because they are returned immediately.
WALLACE: But your own department’s inspector general said that your testing policy — and the failure to test a lot of people wound up in this country — that you rely on local or state officials and a lot of people don’t get tested, has put communities in this country at risk.
MAYORKAS: We concurred with those recommendations; we made improvements. That is also nothing new. That is exactly why we have an independent review of our operations, to see where we can make improvements, where we can strengthen our processes, and that is exactly what we did here.
5. Wallace grills Mayorkas over why he has “failed to comply with the Supreme Court’s ruling to reinstate ‘remain in Mexico.'”
WALLACE: Finally, you talked earlier about the fact that allowing people to come into this country to make a claim of asylum is the law. But in fact — and you know this well, sir — more than a month ago, the Supreme Court overruled the idea that this administration had unilaterally decided to rescind President Trump — former President Trump’s “remain in Mexico” policy, the people had to wait in Mexico while making their claim of asylum. They made that ruling more than a month ago. Why have you failed to comply with the Supreme Court’s ruling to reinstate “remain in Mexico”?
MAYORKAS: So, it is a district court ruling.
WALLACE: No, no, a Supreme Court ruling.
MAYORKAS: Well, the Supreme Court made a determination on the injunction, but we can talk about the law another time. But let me say this, that we are complying with the court’s order. We do have an obligation to implement the migrant protection protocols, and we are negotiating with Mexico, because those protocols require a bilateral agreement. And so, we are negotiating with Mexico, as we are required to do under the court’s order.
WALLACE: Mr. Secretary, thank you. Thanks for your time. Thanks for taking time out during these very busy days to speak with us, sir.
MAYORKAS: Thank you so much for having me.