September 19, 2021
Secretary Mayorkas: I want to thank everybody for joining us this afternoon. I know the situation is a challenging and compelling one. I want to discuss the dangers and consequences of irregular migration for Haitian individuals. As everyone is aware, we have seen a significant influx of Haitian migrants in Del Rio, Texas.
We are very concerned that Haitians who are taking the irregular migration path are receiving misinformation that the border is open or that Temporary Protected Status (TPS) is available to them, despite the fact that they are arriving long after the date that presents the deadline for TPS eligibility. I want to make sure it is known that this is not the way to come to the United States.
Irregular migration of the type that we are witnessing poses a serious risk to the migrants themselves. Trying to enter the United States in this way is not worth the tragedy, the money, or the effort. As we have said consistently since we published the Federal Register Notice officially designating Haiti for TPS only Haitians living in the United States before July 29 are eligible for Temporary Protected Status.
We are committed to developing safe, legal, and orderly pathways for migration. What we are seeing now does not qualify as that. We have no choice at this point but to increase repatriation flights.
If an individual comes to the United States illegally, the individual will be repatriated to Haiti and possibly other countries.
The journey will not succeed. And individuals are endangering their lives and their families’ lives without this success that has been misrepresented to them. It will not be available. We urge people to not attempt the journey, that it will not succeed. And we need people to hear that very, very important, and potentially lifesaving message. With that, I know, Meira, that we will open it up to questions. Thank you.
Q – Jacqueline Charles, Miami Herald: Hi, good afternoon. Secretary, I have two questions. One, the head of the National Office of Migration in Haiti today in an interview with the Miami Herald basically is pleading for a humanitarian moratorium from the US from the Biden administration, citing all of the ongoing challenges that Haiti is undergoing right now so I want to get your reaction to that. And secondly, about 10 years ago the US government actually provided funding to IOM to assist with the repatriation of Haitians who were being returned. There has been no funding from the US, and they need assistance. So when these individuals come, they don’t have any means of their hands, we saw during the COVID epidemic, hotel rooms that were supposed to be for people who were infected with COVID were – had to be used for returning of deportees. Does the US, the administration intend to provide any financial assistance to Haiti to help with the repatriations of what we’re going to see is thousands of deportees or, you know, from migrants from just from Del Rio?
Secretary Mayorkas: So, thanks very much for both questions and let me answer them in the order in which you have posed them. We certainly studied and have studied the conditions in Haiti. As you might recall, there was a period of lag between our announcement of Temporary Protected Status and our actual publication in the Federal Register of our notice of Temporary Protected Status, that was due to the conditions in Haiti that we were observing at that time. The date for TPS remains July 29. It is not being modified, we have studied the conditions in Haiti, we are very mindful of the tragedy of the earthquake. Nevertheless, that tragedy is geographically contained, and Haiti has indeed communicated quite clearly to us its ability to receive the flights of repatriation. We are indeed, in response, Jacqueline, your second question, we are, indeed, providing funding to Haiti to assist in the reception of individuals who are repatriated, and those discussions and efforts are underway, thanks so very much.
Q – Macollvie Neel, Haitian Times: Yes, hi it’s Macollvie Neel and I’m with The Haitian Times. Thank you, Secretary, for having this call, I have a couple questions around the logistics of repatriation. I’m curious to know, one how will you determine who gets returned to Haiti, versus who’s returned to the other countries people are streaming in from? And then secondly, just when are we looking, is the Administration looking to actually start these repatriation flights, is it this week or next month, if you could expand on that, that’d be great?
Secretary Mayorkas: Thank you very much Ms. Neel. So, we are of course in discussions with countries with respect to repatriation flights. Right now, those flights are commencing, or re-commencing I should, say today, and they will continue on a daily basis to Haiti. Thank you.
Q – Macollvie Neel: I’m sorry. Just a quick follow up, I wasn’t clear on how the determination will be made as to who’s returned to Haiti versus to other countries and South America?
Secretary Mayorkas: Right now, Ms. Neel, we are repatriating individuals to Haiti, those flights are underway.
Q – Gessica Thomas, Reuters: Good afternoon. I would like to ask, can you provide a breakdown of flights, as well as the number of Haitians returned to third countries like Brazil and Chile, as well as to Haiti. Plus, how many Haitian are currently being processed in the United States?
Secretary Mayorkas: So, we have between approximately, I would say approximately 12,000 individuals in Del Rio, Texas. We do not provide details with respect to the flights until the flights are completed due to security and other considerations. But we are, in fact, increasing the number of flights in light of the size of the influx that we have experienced.
Q – Wanda Tima, L’union Suite: Hi yeah this is Wanda from L’union Suite. So, my question to you, Secretary, is there are Haitian patients that have residency in these other countries like Brazil and Chile. Are all the Haitians being sent back to Haiti, or what is the process of them with the people that are from Chile or Brazil?
Secretary Mayorkas: So, we are looking at the documentation that the individuals do have, we are working with other countries. And this is an ongoing effort right now. What we have today are, and tomorrow, and in the ensuing days, our flights to Haiti, repatriation flights to Haiti. I must say, I know that we – if I may just add a point, I want to underscore a point because we are certainly aware of and mindful of the humanitarian nature of the situation. And it is precisely for that reason that we need to amplify the message to these individuals to not take this journey, which is dangerous, which is expensive, and perilous. It is precisely for that reason, it is in the service of humanitarian objective that we make this request to amplify the message, because people are putting their lives in the hands of smugglers for a dangerous journey that will not be successful.
Thank you so much Meira and thank up to all of you for joining the call this afternoon at a most critical and sensitive time. Thank you so very much.