Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Sunday refused to confirm a stunning report that a truck smuggling migrants in which more than 50 died was waved through the U.S. border crossing at Laredo, Texas.
In an interview on ABC News' "This Week," Mayorkas was pressed on the San Antonio Express-News revelation that the vehicle was allowed through a checkpoint because traffic was backed up.
"About 10 to 14 thousand vehicles a day cross through the Laredo checkpoint," Mayorkas said. "The smuggling organizations are extraordinarily sophisticated. They are transnational criminal organizations."
He said the facts of the horrific deaths of 53 migrants "are still under investigation."
"It's a criminal case, four individuals have been charged. I won't speak about the particulars; those facts will be elicited in a court of law as the prosecution proceeds," he said.
In a separate interview on CBS News' "Face The Nation," he added, "We saw so tragically in San Antonio, Texas, one of the possible tragic results of that dangerous journey and so many people don't even make it that far in the hands of exploitative smugglers. And we continue to enforce immigration law, as is our legal responsibility."
"We have to do better," he told "This Week," but blamed multiple factors for the record illegal crossings at the border, saying other nations to the south are also experiencing a massive influx of migrants.
"For the first time since 2011 the president's fiscal year 2023 budget calls for 300 more border patrol agents," he said. "And we are hiring case processors. We are addressing this issue vigorously and aggressively to address the amount of – the number of encounters that we are experiencing at the southern border."
"This is a phenomenon that not only the United States is experiencing," he added. "Columbia now has more than two million Venezuelans within its borders. Costa Rica has indicated that 2% of its population is Nicaraguan and that might rise to 5%."
"The migration that is occurring throughout the hemisphere is reflective of the economic downturn, increase in violence throughout the region, the result of a COVID-19 pandemic, the result of climate change," he added.
Mayorkas said the ultimate fix for the crisis lies with Congress.
"We are doing so very much. Ultimately however, ultimately because the border has been a challenge for decades, ultimately Congress must pass legislation to once and for all fix our broken immigration system," he said.
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