WASHINGTON, D.C. — Days after 53 people died while being smuggled in scorching heat in the part of a tractor trailer reserved for cargo, U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said those thinking of hiring smugglers to enter the country in a similar manner risk their lives.
“We have said repeatedly, and we continue to warn people, not to take the dangerous journey,” Mayorkas said July 3 during an appearance on “Face the Nation,” a Sunday news show on CBS.
“We saw so tragically in San Antonio, Texas, one of the possible tragic results of that dangerous journey and so many people don’t even make it that far in the hands of exploitative smugglers,” he added.
Four men have been charged with the June 27 deaths discovered after a worker from a nearby business found the dead migrants and others struggling to stay alive inside the cargo of the truck abandoned near San Antonio. A little girl managed to escape and asked the worker for help. Authorities said the truck had cleared a federal checkpoint but was not inspected.
Mayorkas urged those thinking about migrating to the U.S. to pursue the legal options available to them and said traveling with smugglers is not a legal path, nor a solution to enter the country.
He said that migrants receive false information from smugglers.
“They put their lives, their life savings, in the hands of these exploitative organizations, these criminal organizations that do not care for their lives and only seek to make a profit,” he said.
But many argue that the process is lengthy, stretching into the decades in some cases, or that people running from danger have no protection if they stay home as they wait for their asylum cases to be adjudicated.
But Mayorkas said fixing immigration woes “is a regional challenge that requires a regional response.”
He said the U.S. is now working more closely “with our partners to the south,” particularly with Mexico, where authorities have been breaking up “caravans of individuals that seek to take that dangerous journey to reach our border, only to be met with the enforcement of our laws.”
Mayorkas also praised the recent Supreme Court decision giving the administration a victory in ending the Migration Protection Protocols, or the “Remain in Mexico” policy, that kept migrants on the other side of the border while they waited for their immigration hearing. But Mayorkas said it would take some time to end it.
“So, we have several weeks to go before the District Court lifts its injunction and until then, we are obligated by the district court’s ruling to continue to implement the ‘Remain in Mexico’ program and we will do so in accordance with law,” he said.
“Right now, they do have to remain in Mexico, and then we will actually continue with their immigration enforcement proceedings,” Mayorkas continued. “Remember, when people are encountered at the border, they are just not merely released into the United States.
“They are placed in immigration enforcement proceedings, and that is what will occur with these people,” he explained. “Their proceedings will continue in immigration court, where they will pursue their claims for asylum. And if those claims are unsuccessful, they will be swiftly removed from the United States.”