Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said the situation on the southern border cannot be fixed overnight, but it shows why the country needs to rebuild its immigration policies.
"Our primary responsibility is to keep our homeland and the American people safe. We are safer when we take a more comprehensive and sustainable approach to border management, ensuring that policies and procedures at the border are consistent with American values, immigration laws, and regulations," he said in his written opening statement.
Mayorkas is testifying in front of lawmakers today and he's expected to be grilled on the surge of migrants being held at the border, causing officials scramble to provide resources for the increase in minors and families.
Here is what Mayorkas says the US needs to do about the current situation:
- Address the root of the problem by engaging with governments to alleviate violence and corruption that drives migrants from their homes.
- Work with humanitarian organizations to provide protection for migrants as close to home as possible. These are things like refugee resettlement and family reunification programs.
- Help other countries in the region improve their asylum capabilities and protect migrants.
- Improve the system for processing migrants at the border and get to their asylum claims in a "fair and timely way."
"While these efforts will dramatically improve migration management in the region and help to restore safe and orderly processing at the border, they will take time, as the President noted. Addressing longstanding challenges after the dismantling of the system cannot be accomplished overnight," Mayorkas said.
Here is what he wants to change about the immigration system:
- Provide pathways to citizenship "for hardworking people who enrich our communities every day and who have lived in the United States for years, in some cases for decades," he said.
- Allow people who are undocumented to apply for temporary legal status, and eventually apply for lawful permanent residency after five years if they pass criminal and national security background checks and pay their taxes.
- Prioritize keeping families together.
- Implement protections for workers from being exploited while also ensuring fairness for US workers. Mayorkas said he would also want to see the employment verification process improved.
- Creates safe and legal channels for people to seek protection.
"We are rebuilding an immigration system that was systematically dismantled during the prior administration. We are making risk-based investments in our border management system to create safe, legal, and humane pathways to asylum and humanitarian protection," he said.