'Outrageous': Mayorkas Blasted for Vowing to Reject Asylum-seeking Haitians, Cubans

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Posted: Jul 14, 2021 8:00 AM
'Outrageous': Mayorkas Blasted for Vowing to Reject Asylum-seeking Haitians, Cubans

Source: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas vowed the United States will reject any Haitian or Cuban attempting to enter the country by boat, even if they have demonstrated a credible fear of being persecuted in their home countries.

"Allow me to be clear: if you take to the sea, you will not come to the United States," Mayorkas said.

The warning comes as Cuban authorities are cracking down on demonstrators after massive protests erupted in the country over the weekend. At least 100 people are missing or have been arrested so far. In Haiti, the nation has been rocked by turmoil after President Jovenel Moise was assassinated last week. 

Mayorkas fled Cuba with his parents in 1960 after Fidel Castro’s communist takeover of the country, a point he spoke about when President Biden nominated him to lead DHS.

“When I was very young, the United States provided my family and me a place of refuge,” Mayorkas tweeted. “Now, I have been nominated to be the DHS Secretary and oversee the protection of all Americans and those who flee persecution in search of a better life for themselves and their loved ones.”

But on Tuesday, Mayorkas said those attempting to make it to the U.S. by sea will be stopped by the Coast Guard and returned to their countries. 

"If individuals make, establish a well-founded fear of persecution or torture, they are referred to third countries for resettlement," Mayorkas said, reports CBS News. "They will not enter the United States."

Mayorkas' warning did not mark a shift in U.S. policy. For decades, the U.S. government has been turning back the vast majority of migrants encountered at sea.

Historically, U.S. officials have sent some of the few migrants who are allowed to be screened for humanitarian protection to the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, where they undergo interviews with asylum officers. Asylum-seekers who passed those initial interviews have been referred for resettlement in third countries like Australia. [...]

Mayorkas did not specify which third countries he was referring to in his statement. A Department of Homeland Security spokesperson said the State Department is in charge of third country referrals. Representatives for the State Department did not respond to a request for comment. [...]

Mayorkas said the U.S. has so far not detected a "surge" in maritime interdictions of Cubans and Haitians. He said that 470 Cubans and 313 Haitians have been encountered at sea so far this fiscal year. In fiscal year 2020, 49 Cubans and 430 Haitians were intercepted by the Coast Guard.

These maritime interdictions pale in comparison to the number of Cuban and Haitian migrants taken into U.S. custody along the border with Mexico. In May, the last month with available statistics, 2,800 Haitians and 2,600 Cubans were encountered along the southern border. (CBS News)

Amnesty International blasted the administration over the policy.

Others expressed outrage over the hypocrisy of allowing border crossers by land but not those who are seeking asylum for real reasons by sea.