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DHS secretary visit to Texas comes as Biden’s immigration policies are under fire

The head of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas, says U.S. authorities encountered migrants more than 212,000 on the U.S.-Mexico border in July — an "unprecedented number."
Patrick Semansky
/
AP
The head of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas, says U.S. authorities encountered migrants more than 212,000 on the U.S.-Mexico border in July — an "unprecedented number."

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas will visit Texas Thursday and Friday for briefings on border operations in El Paso and Laredo, the department said. The secretary will also meet with “key stakeholders” to discuss partnerships, though it’s unclear from the announcement who that will include.

Mayorkas will be in El Paso Thursday and travel to Laredo on Friday. The Texas trips follow a stop in Yuma, Ariz. on Wednesday.

The visits come as the Biden administration is under fire from conservatives and immigrant rights groups over his handling of the border and asylum policies. Customs and Border Protection released statistics this week that showed agents encountered more than 2 million unauthorized people at the southern border during the 2021 calendar year, a record high. That figure includes apprehensions of undocumented immigrants, asylum seekers who surrendered to authorities, border crossers deemed “inadmissible” by agents at ports of entries, and people who tried to enter the country multiple times.

Texas’ Rio Grande Valley Sector of the U.S. Border Patrol continues to be the busiest in the country, with more than 137,200 migrant encounters during the first three months of the current 2022 fiscal year. That’s followed in Texas by the Del Rio and El Paso sectors, which have seen 91,650 and 49,000 encounters, respectively, according to CBP statistics.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has been of the state’s most vocal critics of the Biden administration, citing the increase in apprehensions to justify the state’s Operation Lone Star, where Texas state police have been authorized to arrest undocumented immigrants who trespass on private lands after they cross the Rio Grande. But Abbott’s operation has had its share of missteps as several charges have been dropped because of persecutor errors, The Texas Tribune reported.

Biden and Mayorkas have also been widely criticized by immigrant rights groups for continuing some of former President Trump’s border and immigration policies — despite Biden’s campaign promises to end some of the programs. Among them is what’s known as Title 42, which immediately returns most asylum undocumented immigrants to Mexico without allowing them the chance to apply for asylum. The policy was enacted in March 2020 in what Trump said was an effort to curb the further spread of COVID-19.

The Biden administration has also reimplemented the Migrant Protection Protocols, which forces most asylum seekers to wait in Mexico for their immigration hearings in the United States. Biden tried to end the policy after he took office, but a federal court order required its resurgence.

“The administration went on to not only reinstate but expand MPP, with Haitians and other Caribbean nationals now forced into these dangerous conditions,” the National Immigrant Justice Coalition said in a statement earlier this week.

“Many organizations and advocates — including NIJC — have pushed back against the Biden administration, arguing that the administration did not fully explore the many legal options available before reinstating the program. Furthermore, the administration has not put sufficient or meaningful protections in place for people in the program.”

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Got a tip? Email Julián Aguilar at jaguilar@kera.org.You can follow Julián on Twitter @nachoaguilar.
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