The United States' refugee system was "brought to a screeching and inhumane halt" under the Trump administration, but it's being rebuilt and the nation is "restoring our proud traditions" by ending programs such as the "Remain in Mexico" policy, new Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said Friday.
"One of the greatest sources as our pride is our tradition as a country of refuge," Mayorkas, who came to the United States as a small child, said on MSBNC's "Morning Joe." "We are incredibly devoted to rebuilding those programs and restoring our proud traditions and those sources of pride."
Friday, the Biden administration announced it planned to allow tens of thousands of asylum seekers who are waiting in Mexico for immigration court hearings to be let into the United States while cases proceed.
Authorities said the first of approximately 25,000 asylum seekers will be allowed to come in on Feb. 19, starting slowly with a few hundred each day at two border crossings and a third crossing taking fewer.
However, Mayorkas said that it is important for immigrants to wait and allow the United States to address their claims "in an orderly and efficient way," rather than rushing for the border.
He also stressed that it will take time to rebuild the asylum program.
"We are talking about rebuilding infrastructure, rebuilding facilities, rebuilding operations, bringing to bear the personnel and talent, implementing the policies and procedures to allow that," said Mayorkas. "This program we are launching on Feb. 19 is just the beginning."
Work is also underway to allow potential immigrants to register for access to the United States remotely, meaning they won't have to make the journey to the nation's southern border without knowing they can enter the country, he said.
Mayorkas also addressed the growing threat of domestic terrorism, noting that as an immigrant, he found the sight of the attack on the Capitol horrific.
"The rise of domestic violent extremism is one of the greatest concerns that we have in the Department of Homeland Security, and it is one of our priorities to address it," he said.
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