By Suzanne Monyak | CQ Roll Call
WASHINGTON — Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas discussed immigration policy with the Senate’s four Latino Democrats Tuesday afternoon as the administration prepares to lift pandemic border restrictions later this year.
The group, which met for nearly an hour in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chamber, included New Jersey Committee Chairman Bob Menendez, California Senator Alex Padilla, chairman of the Judiciary Committee Immigration Panel, and Senator Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada and Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico.
Menendez described the meeting as a “positive, constructive conversation on a broad range of immigration issues that we believe the administration should consider.”
Menendez said the four senators expressed concern about the pandemic border eviction policy, known as Title 42, as well as an upcoming policy proposal, announced last month, that would limit asylum rights for migrants en route to the country through another country. US-Mexico. border. Menendez said he expects the rule “within a few weeks”.
“We hope he takes that back, what we had to say and share, to the administration,” Menendez said in a brief interview, adding, “He was in a listening mode.”
Padilla said the meeting was “productive” and that “immigration was the focus”, including the imminent end of Title 42 and the “modernization of the asylum system”.
“It was constructive. He clearly knows what he’s doing. It’s probably just one of the most difficult jobs of the federal government,” Padilla said as he left.
Tuesday’s meeting marked Mayorkas’ first time meeting in person with the four senators of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus this calendar year. Mayorkas virtually met with members of the Hispanic Caucus last month, where the leaders of the caucus said they criticized the secretary for not adequately consulting them prior to announcing a separate major migration initiative that would restrict legal avenues for certain migrants while strengthening enforcement mechanisms. the border.
As for how the Tuesday meeting came about, Menendez said the DHS chief “asked for it.”
The discussion came less than three months before the planned end of the controversial Title 42 border policy, which has allowed border agents to quickly deport migrants without considering their asylum applications since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The government has announced that it does not intend to extend the COVID-19 public health emergency orders and will instead allow them to expire on May 11. The government has said it believes the expiration of these orders will also lead to the termination of the Border Expulsion Directive.
The Biden administration has faced mounting pressure on Capitol Hill over its policies on the US-Mexico border, where migration has reached an all-time high. The border debate has put Mayorkas in particular in the spotlight — and right in the crosshairs of Republicans.
House Republicans, now in the majority, have announced plans to begin impeachment proceedings against the chief of Homeland Security. The agency has hired outside counsel to handle such proceedings, indicating that the department takes the threat seriously.
Congressional Republicans, and even some Democrats from border states, have also warned the government not to repeal the Title 42 policy, citing fears of drawing more migrants to the border.
Meanwhile, other congressional Democrats have chastised the administration for maintaining border restrictions for so long, pointing to significant damage to asylum seekers seeking protection.
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