Mayorkas calls illegal immigration 'irregular migration,' announces new plan to deal with issue
US Border Patrol encounters in March of individuals who entered the country between Ports of Entry at the southwest border was up 25% from February.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Thursday referred to the record illegal migration into the U.S. as "irregular" migration and announced new strategies to address the matter.
"Our approach is to build lawful migration pathways so that individuals who qualify for relief do not have to place their lives in the hands of smugglers and take the dangerous journey," Mayorkas said in announcing the changes. "At the same time, we are imposing consequences for people who do not use the pathways and instead seek to cross our southern border illegally."
U.S. Border Patrol encounters of individuals who entered the country between Ports of Entry at the southwest border in March 2023 totaled 162,317 – up 25% from 130,024 in February, according to the federal government's most recent figures.
The agency said March encounters are down 23% from last year but it also acknowledged in that migrants attempting to cross into the U.S. from Mexico in recent months remain at levels not seen in more than two decades.
Mayorkas said Thursday his department is opening new regional processing centers in Colombia and Guatemala where people can apply for relief "without having to take the dangerous journey" to the U.S.-Mexico border.
He also said the agency is developing a new and streamlined family reunification processes that would enable qualifying people to reunite with their families already lawfully present in the U.S.
Mayorkas said there are commitments from Canada and Spain to receive individuals who qualify for arrival under those countries’ laws.
He also warned of increased seasonal migration to the U.S-Mexico border in the coming weeks.
He said U.S. authorities will continue to use "expedited removal proceedings and at least a five-year bar on admission and potential criminal prosecution for any subsequent attempts to cross the border."