The following is the transcript of an interview with Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas that aired on “Face the Nation” on May 7, 2023. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: We’re joined now by the Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. It’s good to have you here in person, sir.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Before we get to migration, I want to ask, do you have any information about this latest mass shooting in Texas, which may have been with an AR-15 style weapon?

SECY. MAYORKAS: Margaret, another horrific tragedy in our country. I spoke with the governor last night as well as the mayor. The matter is still under investigation. So of course, I can’t comment any further. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: No information about the shooter? 

SECY. MAYORKAS: No, Margaret, I think it’s- it’s under investigation. The state and local authorities are leading that investigation.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Let’s get to the border. This is the greatest migration surge, you said, in the Western Hemisphere since World War II. And you’ve been preparing for more than a year and a half. How rough will the next few weeks be?

SECY. MAYORKAS: You know, Margaret, we’ve been preparing for this for more than a year and a half, you are correct. And it is indeed a regional challenge. And it requires a regional response, which is why we are working so closely with many countries to the south. With the Los Angeles declaration that we achieved at the Summit of the Americas as our foundational approach. I think we’re going to see larger numbers at first. It’s going to take our plan a while to really take hold for people to understand that they can access lawful, safe, orderly pathways before they reach the border. And quite frankly, if they come to the border, they will receive a consequence under our enforcement authorities.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So you are, as an administration, setting up processing centers in Colombia and Guatemala so migrants can start the asylum process before they make it to the border. But those aren’t set up yet. When will those be functional? 

SECY. MAYORKAS: So, we are furthest along with Colombia. It should be a matter of weeks. But we also have additional lawful pathways that already have existed for people to access– 

MARGARET BRENNAN: The phone apps. 

SECY. MAYORKAS: Yes, the parole program for Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans and Venezuelans. We are expanding our family reunification programs. We have an obligation not only as a matter of security, but as a matter of humanitarian relief, to cut out the smuggling organizations, to reach the people so they don’t have to put their lives in the hands of those ruthless smugglers that impose such tragedy and trauma.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So you have announced 1500 troops that are going to El Paso, Texas. Why not other parts of the border? Is Texas the most porous area?

SECY. MAYORKAS: Well, they will be dispersed as operational needs require. Something’s very important- something very important to note, since 2006, every single year since 2006, we have relied on the Department of Defense to supplement our personnel and our resources at the border. We have never been resourced appropriately. And so the deployment of active duty troops is not to do enforcement work, not to interact with the migrants, but to provide other support so that our border patrol agents can be out in the field doing the work– 

MARGARET BRENNAN: So you’re- you’re talking about office work. No active-duty military will interact with migrants period?

SECY. MAYORKAS: Correct. They are not to do enforcement work. That’s not what they are deployed for.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask you about Arizona. As you know, we were just there. The governor of Arizona and the senior senator told us that the federal government is unprepared. Senator Sinema said Homeland Security is not sharing information with her or local law enforcement on numbers of migrants, processing time and available buses to transport them. The governor also said she needs more urgency and she can’t get specific information on dollars for emergency shelters. Why isn’t that kind of specific detail being shared?

SECY. MAYORKAS: Well, I respectfully disagree with the Senator and the governor. Number one, we are prepared. As we noted at the very beginning of our conversation, we’ve been preparing for this for quite some time. We tried to end Title 42 repeatedly and were- were stopped from doing so by the courts, so we are prepared number one. Number two, we have a migration information center that is specifically set up to communicate with state and local officials. And we have been doing so. We are using our FEMA regional coordinators as our key points of contact. I spoke with Senator Sinema, I think within the last two weeks, and our personnel are in touch with other officials on a regular basis.

MARGARET BRENNAN: She said she had been in touch with Homeland Security also with the White House but the information was not adequate. So do you think there is a communication problem here?

SECY. MAYORKAS: I do not. And if there is a question that has been unanswered we will answer it. I will tell you though, let’s take a step back because there’s a very important message, not to communicate only to Senator Sinema, but to all senators and all members of the House of Representatives. We need immigration reform. Everything that the Department of Homeland Security is doing, everything that our partners across the federal government are doing, is within a broken immigration system. The President passed to Congress, a proposal to fix our broken immigration system on the first day in office–

MARGARET BRENNAN: But that’s like a to-do list. That’s different than putting your shoulder behind it, picking up the phone and saying, excuse me, Democrats control the Senate, let’s be out front on immigration. 

SECY. MAYORKAS: Margaret, we have been pushing for immigration legislation since day one. And by the way, it didn’t start on day one. This is a decades-long problem– 


SECY. MAYORKAS: –the immigration system hasn’t been fixed since the ’90s.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Absolutely. And it has only seemingly gotten worse with the set of circumstances we’re in now. But to that point, this gets so politicized and you take a lot of the political heat yourself because you run the agency on the security portion of this. But if the politics are so bad, and the security situation is so difficult, and you need more resources, why isn’t the President out there talking more about the need for a border bill? Why isn’t Leader Schumer doing this? It seems like the issue is being conceded to Republicans.

SECY. MAYORKAS: I- I Margaret, I just respectfully disagree. I spoke with Leader Schumer, also within the last two weeks, we are in constant communication–

MARGARET BRENNAN: Is there a timeline for him?

SECY. MAYORKAS: –We- we are constantly- there is- there is not a day that goes by that we are not urging Congress to pass reform. I have been in hearings this past month, and I spoke about that repeatedly, my colleagues in the administration speak of it repeatedly, people in the community who are experts in these issues, speak of it repeatedly. You know, I engage with other countries to address what is indeed a regional challenge. I spoke with my counterparts in Canada, in Spain. Their systems are designed to match their labor needs with a potential supply of personnel who want to work and build a better life. We are stuck in an antiquated system that can’t match the two. It is just so incredibly sad.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So does the administration support the bipartisan bill from Senator Sinema and Tillis that would allow for expelling of migrants for two years similar to Title 42?

MAYORKAS: Title 42 and the expulsion authority is a public health authority. 



MAYORKAS: It is not an immigration authority. We will be using our immigration authorities, which call for a consequence regime, which is why we have to correct the lies that smugglers tell vulnerable migrants. They think they’re coming and they’ll be able to stay and that is just unequivocally false.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Because if you enter now after May 12, illegally, you can be held back for five years from trying to cross again

MAYORKAS: Correct. If you do not qualify for relief, you will be removed quickly. And you will face a bar of at least five years to admission. And what I would say to the senators, Senators Tillis and Sinema what we need is our system fix, not this band aid solution.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And the Senator calls it a band aid, but a stepping stone as well. Senator Bob Menendez who’s the Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, a Democrat said the administration has ignored his proposals. He objected to the sending of troops, and he criticized lack of planning. So if you have people who are border-state Senators who want to do something, and then you have the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee saying he wants to do something, why is the administration ignoring that or pressing it, pushing it aside?

MAYORKAS: The administration is not ignoring it. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, Menendez said that. 

MAYORKAS: We are, we are pressing forward. And by the way, Senator Menendez, the Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, set forth a really thoughtful document with a number of pillars of action. And we have indeed implemented a number of those. Our whole construct of lawful, safe and orderly pathways is something that is echoed in Senator Menendez pronouncement.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Henry Cuellar Democrat said he has confidence in you and Homeland Security. But he said the White House is holding you back.

MAYORKAS: Untrue. One team. One mission, and we are prepared to execute it.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask you just on the substance before you go of who is crossing right now. You said the surge in the past couple of weeks is mainly Venezuelans or a large number are and that’s a unique challenge because the US can’t expel them the same way. Mexico is only accepting about 30,000 a month. So why such large numbers right now? And what happens to the Venezuelans once they get here?

MAYORKAS: So, Margaret, a few things. One, the parole programs that we announced and implemented on January 5, for not only Venezuelans, but Cubans, Haitians, and Nicaraguans, as well drove the number of encounters of those populations down by more than 95%. Very, very quickly. The fire in the city of Juarez in Mexico really impacted the politics within Mexico. And what we saw is the smugglers exploiting that, spreading false information to the migrants, and we’ve seen a surge of Venezuelans. The, the President’s Homeland Security Adviser was in Mexico this past Tuesday to meet with the President of Mexico and Mexico has agreed to take back Venezuelans and others, even after Title 42 ends on Thursday, May 11. It will take a while, we are going to see larger numbers. Initially, it will take a while for our plan to take hold for the migrants to understand the consequences that we are going to deliver when they arrive irregularly at our border, rather than take advantage of the lawful pathways we have made available to them. But those consequences will be delivered. The lawful pathways will provide safety in order for them. And we will see those numbers decline in due time and hopefully as quickly as possible.

MARGARET BRENNAN: 10,000 per day?

MAYORKAS: What we do is we plan for different scenarios. And that is exactly what we are doing. I was in Brownsville. I was in McAllen, Texas, Thursday and Friday to see our plans in operation. It’s extraordinarily impressive what our heroic personnel can do.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mr. Secretary, we’ll be watching. Good luck to you.

MAYORKAS: Thank you so much, Margaret.