Alejandro Mayorkas finally admitted on Sunday that 12,000 Haitian migrants have been released into the U.S., claiming that number could go up as 5,000 other cases are still being processed and confusingly says not stopping illegal immigration is a ‘proud tradition.’
'Approximately, I think it's about 10,000 or so – 12,000 thousand,' Mayorkas told Fox News Sunday when asked how many have already been released into the country.
'It could be even higher,' he added. 'The number that are returned could be even higher. What we do is we follow the law as Congress has passed it.'
The new numbers suggest that there were actually 17,000 mostly Haitian migrants part of the Del Rio, Texas encampment rather than the previous figures that said the number didn't top 15,000.
It comes as even more Haitian migrants make their way to the U.S., with images emerging Saturday of a caravan traveling to the Panama border from Acandi, Colombia.
Mayorkas continued to downplay the massive southern border crisis on Sunday, saying these migrations are 'nothing new' and telling Fox he wouldn't classify the crossing as a 'flood' of people.
Another caravan of Haitian migrants are making the long trek to the U.S. to claim asylum. Here a group walks toward the border of Panama from Colombia on Saturday
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas finally admitted on Sunday that 12,000 Haitian migrants have been released into the U.S., claiming that number could increase as 5,000 other cases are still being processed
Haitian migrants sail on Saturday from Colombia to Panama as another caravan makes its way to the U.S. southern border amid an already overwhelming surge
The area where the encampment of Haitian migrants stood just days early is seen empty on Saturday, allowing the Del Rio Port of Entry to reopen after being closed for a week
Almost all of the mostly Haitian migrants who set up camp near the Del Rio International Bridge this month left as of Saturday
'11 million people in this country without lawful presence is a compelling reason why there is unanimity about the fact that our immigration system is broken and legislative reform is needed,' Mayorkas said.
He added when asked about the surge: 'I wouldn't call it a flood.'
Previously, partial information was released by DHS this week about the status of the thousands of mostly Haitian migrants who crossed into Del Rio, Texas over the last few weeks.
Those figures, however, only accounted for only 10,000 migrants – meaning at least another 5,000 were unaccounted for.
The information DHS did release on Thursday showed that 1,401 migrants were sent back to Haiti on 12 different flights, 3,206 remain in custody, and 5,000 are still camped out beneath the Del Rio International Bridge.
'Why didn't you stop them from coming into the country?' Fox host Chris Wallace asked the DHS chief on Sunday.
'We did,' Mayorkas insisted. 'We encountered them as they gathered – they assembled in that one location in Del Rio, Texas, and we applied the laws.'
'My question is why did you allow them in the country in the first place?' Wallace clarified. 'Why didn't you build – forgive me, a wall or a fence to stop them from walking – this flood of people coming across the dam, it looks like a highway that allows them to cross the Rio Grande.'
Mayorkas responded: 'It is the policy of this administration – we do not agree with the building of the wall. The law provides that individuals can make a claim for humanitarian relief.'
'That is actually one of our proudest traditions,' he added.
Migrants cross a river on horse-drawn wagons on Saturday as they head for the northern border Colombia shares with Panama
Migrants walk toward the border where they will wait in port town of Acandi, Colombia where they will wait for a boat to take them north so they can continue the dangerous trek to the U.S.
Many of these mostly Haitian migrants get stranded in the Colombia port awaiting a boat out to cross into neighboring Panama to make their way to the U.S. to claim asylum
Migrants set up a makeshift camp on Saturday evening as they travel to the northern-est border of Colombia to await boat transportation to Panama
Many Haitian migrants who have been camped out in South and Central American countries for months - and some for years – claim they now feel it's time to make the trek to the U.S. due to Biden's immigration policies.
Even though Mayorkas and the administration insist the border is 'closed,' migrants are easily able to cross the border and claim asylum, which kicks off a process that many times allows them to remain in the U.S. while their case is considered.
Last weekend, DHS ramped up deportation efforts by beginning removal flights back to Haiti.
This caused many migrants to trek back into Mexico from Del Rio to avoid deportation to their homeland, but the vast majority of the illegal immigrants are still in the U.S. and – it is now known – were released from custody.
Customs and Border Protection garnered an immense amount of backlash for carrying out the deportation and deterrence efforts after images emerged of agents on horseback appearing to use reins as whips against the migrants.
Included in the backlash was Representative Maxine Waters of California who claimed the 'whipping' images are 'worse than slavery' and fellow black Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley suggested the actions were counterintuitive to the Black Live Matter movement as they were used on black Haitian migrants.
Haitian migrants walk on Saturday as they make their way to the transport point to Panama
In response, the White House announced on Thursday that it would no longer allow Border Patrol agents in Del Rio to ride on horseback. Mayorkas also announced the agents in the images were reassigned to administrative duties while an investigation into their actions is carried out.
Agents are angered that they are facing consequences after being directed to do their job. They have reasoned that they were only using the split reins to direct their horses or to ward off immigrants – but not to whip them.
The photographer who took the images of the agents on horseback, Paul Ratje, said that he did not witness any agents use reins to whip migrants.