Jan 10, 2023

Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre Gaggle Aboard Air Force One En Route to El Paso, Texas 1/08/23 Transcript

Karine Jean-Pierre Holds a Press Briefing on Air Force One 4/11/23 Transcript
RevBlogTranscriptsKarine Jean-Pierre White House Press Briefing TranscriptsPress Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre Gaggle Aboard Air Force One En Route to El Paso, Texas 1/08/23 Transcript

Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre Gaggle Aboard Air Force One En Route to El Paso, Texas 1/08/23. Read the transcript here.

Transcribe Your Own Content

Try Rev and save time transcribing, captioning, and subtitling.

Karine Jean-Pierre Gaggle (00:00):

So as you know today we’re headed to El Paso, Texas. I’ve got Secretary of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas right here next to me, and I’ll turn it over to him shortly to provide more detail about the trip and take your questions. But let me give you a little bit at the top so I can walk you through the President’s schedule today. While in El Paso, the President will assess enforcement operations at the bridge of the America’s Port of Entry, which is the busiest port in El Paso. The port recently received $600 million through the President’s bipartisan infrastructure law to harden and expand the port to better facilitate trade, increase security, and improve processing. Following the port visit, President Biden will visit a federally funded migrant services center. He will meet with local officials, faith leaders, and NGOs who have been critical to supporting migrants fleeing political oppression and economic collapse in their home countries. The president will also hear from local business leaders about the critical economic impact immigrants have on this region to address the workforce shortages.

One last piece here, if I can get to it. So, throughout the day, the President will be joined by federal, state, and local officials and community leaders, including customs and border protection officers, Congresswoman Veronica Escobar, Congressman Henry Cuellar, Congressman Vicente Gonzalez, and El Paso Mayor Oscar Leeser. With that, I’ll turn it over to Secretary Mayorkas to talk a bit of a bit more about the El Paso community and how it’s served as a model of federal and local officials working together to solve tough challenges as the resources team has been surging into the region. Go ahead Secretary.

Alejandro Mayorkas (01:52):

Thanks so much. So the President is stopping at El Paso on the way to Mexico City for the North American Leader Summit. And El Paso is a place where, of course we’ve seen an acute challenge, most significantly in December, and he’ll also have a chance to see the work of the border patrol agents and the Office of Field Operations and Customs and Border Protection. We have surged resources in response to the challenge in El Paso. We surged 100 border patrol agents. We are, I believe on Tuesday, going to be opening up a new soft-sided facility that will be able to process up to 1000 migrants a day. The central processing center that we have there has a capacity of 1700. We’ve worked very closely with Mayor Leeser of the city as well as Judge Samaniego of the county. We have surged emergency food and shelter program funding to them. We have also given them an extension on the expenditure of the funding already provided, given the challenges they have faced.

We’ve worked with the Red Cross. For the Red Cross, the surge resources for individuals who have been on the street. The Red Cross has been very responsive. So it’s a model not only of the public-private partnership, but also the federal government with the local officials. So really want to open it up to your questions, whatever you might have.

Speaker 1 (03:29):

Secretary. Thanks, Green. Secretary. Can I ask about the asylum procedures? If the idea is that migrants are going to have to ask for asylum in the country where they first arrive ahead of the US are there talks right now to help bolster Mexico’s asylum systems, or even possibly Guatemala’s asylum systems? How is it going to work?

Alejandro Mayorkas (03:54):

So let me take a step back. I think you’re referring to the announcement that we made on Thursday, and specifically the use of the CBP One application, which is to identify a pre-designated date and time at which an individual can arrive at a port of entry to make the claim of asylum. And yes, we are working with our regional partners to ensure that they’re building up their humanitarian relief capabilities as well.

Speaker 1 (04:23):

So the idea is not that they’ll have to ask for asylum in Mexico, but rather they’ll have to use the app to ask for asylum in US and then stay till they’re …?

Alejandro Mayorkas (04:30):

What we’re trying to do is, and more broadly, incentivize a safe and orderly way and cut out the smuggling organizations. So what we’re trying to have them do is incentivize them to come to the ports of entry instead of in between the ports of entry. The CBP one application was first really developed in response to the squalid conditions in which migrants found themselves at the beginning of the administration in Camp Matamoros. So what we did there is we worked with the non-profit organizations, the international organizations. So once they had their appointment, we brought them safely to a port of entry and we’re working with our regional partners to develop that same capability.

Michael (05:17):

Mike [inaudible 00:05:18]. Mr Secretary, the proposed rule that you guys say you want to pursue, would in fact, largely, I mean according to the advocacy community, would deny migrants the opportunity, the serious opportunity to apply for asylum and be considered on its merits in the United States if they have crossed through Mexico and not applied for asylum in Mexico first. And they say that is a real reduction in what is international human rights law around the world that you guys want to take away. That’s what they say.

Alejandro Mayorkas (05:59):

So Michael understood, and I’ve seen the criticism of it as a ban, but it is not a ban at all, and it is markedly different than what the Trump administration proposed. What we are trying to do is draw people in a safe and orderly way, which is not the case now. I’ve seen firsthand what trauma is inflicted on migrants who actually use the smuggling organizations. So trauma or tragedy. So what we’re trying to do is incentivize individuals through the CBP One application to make an appointment and to come at the port of entry to cut out the smuggling organizations. If they do not, and by the way, the notice of proposed rulemaking will have humanitarian exceptions, hypothetically because we’re still working out the details. But it’s if someone is an imminent threat of harm, if someone doesn’t have the capacity, for example, to use CBP One app, although I think that most migrants do indeed have cell phones, but there may be literacy challenges or whatever the humanitarian reasons might be.

But what we’re trying to do is have them use this app, come to a port of entry in a safe and orderly way and make their claim. If they do not use that application, then they will need to have applied for humanitarian relief in one of the countries through which they have traveled. If they don’t use the application, they will have had to applied for humanitarian relief in one of the countries through which they have traveled. And if they were denied, then they are not subject to, not a ban, but a rebuttable

Alejandro Mayorkas (08:00):

… rebuttable presumption of ineligibility. And there’s a marked difference between the two.

Speaker 2 (08:04):

Can I ask about the visit today? How closely will President Biden actually see some of the crowding that’s taking place in El Paso? Will he see any people on the streets in the downtown area? And will he be able to actually speak to any of the migrants who have crossed?

Alejandro Mayorkas (08:23):

Forgive me, I’m not that close to what exactly the details of the trip are. I know he’s going to see, as Karine mentioned, the port of entry, which I think is the second-busiest port along the border both with respect to commercial traffic and passenger traffic. But I don’t know the details of the itinerary.

I should say that the number of individuals encountered at the border has dropped precipitously.

Speaker 3 (08:49):

Since the new rules?

Alejandro Mayorkas (08:50):

No, no, no, that… because I wouldn’t want to create a misimpression that the results are realized that quickly. But since the peak in December of 2,000 a day, it’s now… I believe the most recent figure was 700.

Speaker 4 (09:04):

Can you speak to… Republicans seem hellbent on perhaps impeaching you. How is your office preparing for a Republican Congress oversight?

Alejandro Mayorkas (09:14):

[inaudible 00:09:13] doing the work that we need to get done.

Brian (09:20):

I have a question about the parole program that was announced on Thursday. Some of the advocates have looked at this program that requires people to be in their home country, have a US sponsor, and fly themselves to the United States as a wealth test. What’s your response to that? Is this a wealth test-

Alejandro Mayorkas (09:36):

No. It’s a-

Brian (09:36):

… so that only people with means would be able to apply for this program?

Alejandro Mayorkas (09:40):

Brian, the migrants who reach the border in between the ports of entry, the vast majority, if not more than that, are using smuggling organizations to get there. And the average cost is $6,000.

And so, it is not a wealth test. What we’re trying to do is spare individuals of placing their life savings in the hands of smuggling organizations, as well as their lives. So, we do not find it to be a barrier.

And quite frankly, with respect to the Venezuela program, the level of applications was rocket speed throughout the duration of it, which is why we’re lifting the 24,000 limit. And we’ve already had hundreds of applications since we opened up the process for the Cubans, Nicaraguans, Haitians, and now for the Venezuelans as well.

Speaker 5 (10:39):

Mr. Secretary, why is the President going now, two years into this administration and on the eve of a summit with two other nations where this could threaten to overshadow it? And how does the Mexican government feel about these changes?

Alejandro Mayorkas (10:52):

So, the President is on his way to Mexico City for the North American Leader’s Summit. He made a decision to see what the challenges are and how we’ve responded to those challenges in El Paso.

I have been down to the border now, certainly, more than a dozen times. I don’t know if it’s 15, 17, or what have you, and, certainly, have reported back to him with respect to what I have seen and how we are responding to what I have seen.

Speaker 6 (11:19):

What do you think the President will learn by going to the border? And how do you think that will influence his conversations with the Mexican leader?

Alejandro Mayorkas (11:26):

I will tell you one thing that I think he’s going to see firsthand is the incredible work of US Customs and Border Protection, both the Border Patrol agents, the Field Office personnel, as well as the support that others provide to them. I really am very eager for him to see the extraordinary work that they perform every day.

Speaker 7 (11:46):

This country has a labor shortage right now. I wonder what impact at all, if any, did it have on the announcement last Thursday? In other words, are these numbers higher than they would have been if you take into account the fact that this country needs workers? What is the overlay? What is your message to the American public about the impact of a labor shortage in America on the immigration policy at the southwest border?

Alejandro Mayorkas (12:10):

The labor shortage in the United States is one powerful example of how desperately we need to fix our broken immigration system. We look to the north in Canada, and Canada realized that it has a 1-million-person labor shortage there, and they are bringing in approximately 1.4 million migrants this year to address that labor shortage.

Our programs, our H-2A, our H-2B, our skilled worker programs are far outdated to really meet the economic needs as well as the economic opportunities that immigration can provide.

Speaker 7 (12:53):

You can’t really fix them without Congress. Is that fair?

Alejandro Mayorkas (12:55):

That is correct. We on the very first day in office sent over a bill to Congress to fix the system. And, of course, Congress has yet to act.

Speaker 8 (13:05):

You mentioned the Canadians, sir. Very briefly, Prime Minister Trudeau has raised the issue over the NEXUS programming. He wants to discuss that with President Biden. Is there any response you have to the Canadians on that?

Alejandro Mayorkas (13:16):

I’ve been working very closely with my counterpart, Minister Mendicino of Canada. I’m hopeful that we’ll have a readout to provide with respect to the success that we’ve achieved on the development of the NEXUS program. And just for everybody’s visibility, the NEXUS program is one of the facilitators of travel between our two countries.

Speaker 9 (13:38):

Is it possible… So the four nationalities that were chosen, that were decided with the asylum or the border policy rules this past week, are the four nationalities where you are seeing like a large increase in border crossings?

Alejandro Mayorkas (13:58):

It’s a combination of things, but number one, it’s responsive to the demographics that we’ve seen at the border. The three top nationalities, other than Mexico, single adults from Mexico, have been, in fact, Cubans, Venezuelans, and Nicaraguans. It’s been responsive to the demographics, as well as to the conditions in those countries, the authoritarian regimes. And I don’t need to speak too much about the conditions in Haiti; I think you’re all aware of them. So, it’s a combination of factors.

Speaker 9 (14:30):

And is it possible that those nationalities could change depending on what it looks like in the future?

Alejandro Mayorkas (14:33):

We don’t have anything new to announce now, but we’re hopeful this policy works, as it has tremendously with respect to Venezuelans. We went from over 1,100 encounters per day of Venezuelans to below 100.

Speaker 10 (14:48):

Can you talk about the security situation in Mexico and how some of the Mexican government’s actions, like the arrest of El Chapo’s son, is affecting migration and how you feel about those developments?

Alejandro Mayorkas (15:01):

I’m not in a position to speak to a correlation between migration from Mexico and the action with respect to the son. I think it’s a little too early to draw conclusions there.

Michael (15:14):

Mr. Secretary, can I ask you about the issue of how satisfied you are with Mexico’s willingness to take migrants back? The 30,000 that you announced as part of the expanded Title 42 return program is dwarfed by the number of people that are actually coming. I think in November alone, there were like 90,000 people from those four countries alone.

Mexico said they’re putting a cap of 30,000 a month. Is that enough? Are you satisfied that they’re willing to do what needs to be done?

Alejandro Mayorkas (15:49):

Michael, Mexico made its independent decision with respect to the number of individuals it would accept on a monthly basis. We’ve been

Alejandro Mayorkas (16:00):

Very pleased and very grateful for the partnership that we’ve had on addressing the migration challenge that, as I’ve said publicly a number of times, is not unique to the southern border of the United States, nor unique to the southern border of Mexico. It’s something that is gripping the entire phenomenon. We’re seeing between 500 and 700 Ecuadorians a day at our border. I was in Columbia, that is housing 2.4 million Venezuelans. I was in Costa Rica, and I believe the population of Costa Rica now might have just exceeded 5% of being composed of Nicaraguans. It’s really remarkable, the level of displacement throughout the hemisphere, which is reflective of the level of displacement around the world.

Speaker 7 (16:53):

Can I ask, for the sake of argument, would your preference be if the funding and system was in place to welcome more migrants than you are now? Is it just a resources issue or do you think that the very notion of people being crossed unfettered is objectionable? In other words, why not throw the doors open? Is it a resources issue or it’s a policy issue?

Alejandro Mayorkas (17:16):

Let me break this down. First of all, there’s legal immigration. The three goals of our immigration system are economic prosperity, and there we need to fix our system. Humanitarian relief, and there we need to fix our system. And the third is family reunification, and we have very limited avenues for that. We’ve just been dealing with a broken system. We are, in each of those areas, doing whatever we can. To give an example, we’ve maximized our use of the H-2B visa program, and we actually accelerated its openness with unprecedented speed. In the area of humanitarian relief, one of the announcements on Thursday was to process 20,000 refugees in the Western hemisphere in fiscal year ’23 and fiscal year ’24. That is an unprecedented number. With respect to family reunification, we’re rebuilding the Haitian Family Reunification Program. We’ve recommenced the Cuban Family Reunification Program. We’re working with the migration accords that are restarting. So we’re working in all different avenues, but fundamentally we have to fix this system.

Speaker 7 (18:35):

But philosophically, if there was funding and if there was immigration reform… I realize neither is the case… Does this administration think that there should be caps consistent with what they are now on those three [inaudible 00:18:47] you mentioned? Or if you had money and a better system, would you think that America should be bringing in more people?

Alejandro Mayorkas (18:56):

One of our proudest traditions is to provide humanitarian relief for people seeking persecution by reason of their membership in a particular social group. That is one of our proudest traditions, and there is not a cap on the claim of asylum in the United States, and this President has increased the number of individuals eligible for refugee. In the area of economic migration, our system is not calibrated, as I mentioned earlier, to meet our needs nor meet the opportunities that migrants can bring to the United States.

Speaker 11 (19:35):

How does the President think about striking the balance between establishing a deterrence and humanitarian relief? Was Thursday’s announcement where you announced a parole program for 30,000 people, as well as turning 30,000 people back into Mexico each month, is that an example of the President trying to strike a balance between humanitarian assistance and deterrence?

Alejandro Mayorkas (19:57):

The president agreed to a 30,000 per month parole program as a very important step in bringing people in a safe and orderly way. Mexico made an independent decision with respect to its capability and its policy approach to how many people it would receive back. Those two are actually independent of one another.

Speaker 11 (20:27):

Is a coincidence of the numbers are the same? 30, 000? Is that coincidence?

Alejandro Mayorkas (20:33):

The decision was sequenced between the two countries.

Speaker 7 (20:36):

Can you say, what’s the president’s number? Was that the suggestion of staff, or did he raise the number or lower the number? And discuss the deliberative approach.

Alejandro Mayorkas (20:44):

These decisions were made in a cohesive way, as a team. This administration works as a team.

Speaker 7 (20:51):


Alejandro Mayorkas (20:51):


Speaker 7 (20:53):

Thank you.

Alejandro Mayorkas (20:53):

Talk later. Thank you.

Karine Jean-Pierre Gaggle (20:54):

Just want to say a couple things. As the secretary was saying, the President’s going to visit the busiest port in El Paso, and so I just wanted to make that clear. And he’ll also be visiting the migrant center, as I said at the top. But I also want to say about the El Paso community. It has long welcomed migrants seeking asylum under Republican and Democrat administration alike. And so what the President’s going to do is, as I said at the top, and as the secretary was saying as well, he’s going to assess border enforcement operations there firsthand. He’ll meet with elected officials as well, and local officials who have been critical partners in this. And so I just want to reiterate that because I know a question was asked about what he’s going to do.

Michael (21:41):

Is he going to speak to some migrants at the Migrant Center?

Karine Jean-Pierre Gaggle (21:43):

He’s going to visit the Migrant Center. You all are going to be there throughout the day, and so you’ll see for yourselves. But he is going to go to the Migrant Center, he is going to talk to the custom border patrol officials and other local officials who have been great partners in this. And so again, you all are going to be joining us and you all will see for yourselves.

Michael (22:02):

Just a logistics question for us. In Abdullah’s note last night, he said “the President will be, once again, calling on Republicans to…” you know, whatever, and he said a bunch of things that the President was going to do. On the schedule, there’s nothing that suggests any remarks. So he’s not going to be doing those things that Abdullah said in the…? Okay, so that-

Karine Jean-Pierre Gaggle (22:24):

We’ll give him remarks. I mean, but look, I’ve said it, the President has said it. He said it most recently on Thursday, asking Congress to take action.

Michael (22:32):

It wasn’t a substantive thing, just logistical, should we be anticipating some sort of…?

Karine Jean-Pierre Gaggle (22:39):

And then just one thing, because the secretary was talking about the stats in El Paso, so I just want to give you a little bit of an update there. The number of people attempting to cross the border unlawfully in El Paso is now down by over 70%, and that has been since mid-December, while our unprecedented effort operations continue to result in record fentanyl seizures. But since the President launched the Venezuela parole process, the average daily number of Venezuelans nationals encounter at the border in El Paso alone is now a quarter of what it was prior to the launch.

So again, the President’s border enforcement measures are working, but again, these are steps that the President is able to take. He’s clearly taking this very seriously. But again, we’re going to continue to ask for Congress to act. That’s the way that we’re going to fix this broken system. Just wanted to touch on those two things.

Speaker 11 (23:31):

The President spoke to the new speaker yesterday. Can you put some context in there? How long did the conversation take place? What was the tone of that conversation? And what was the President’s message?

Karine Jean-Pierre Gaggle (23:43):

So look, I’m not going to go into details of a private conversation. As you know, the President and the First Lady publicly congratulated Speaker McCarthy as soon as he was elected yesterday. As you saw from our note, the President spoke to Speaker McCarthy on the phone

Karine Jean-Pierre Gaggle (24:00):

… To congratulate him directly. But, look, there’s nothing new. The president has been very consistent and very precise about how he sees us moving forward in 2023 and beyond. He wants to work with Republicans in good faith, to continue to deliver for the American people. And he is out. He’s going to outreach his hand to do just that. Let’s be very clear here. Let’s not forget, in November, that’s what they said. That’s what the American public said. They want to see us working together to continue to deliver and build upon the president’s economic policy. Go ahead, Pauline.

Pauline (24:40):

Is the president concerned at all about McCarthy’s latest concessions to the Conservatives on the budget and debt limit?

Karine Jean-Pierre Gaggle (24:49):

So let’s start with the first. Look, again, the American people were very clear. They want us to govern. They want to see us continue to deliver for the American people, and that’s what the president’s calling for. That’s not going to change and we’re going to continue to do that and call for that. As it relates to the debt ceiling, look, we want to be very clear. I’ve been very clear on this. Congress is going to need to raise the debt limit without conditions and it’s just that simple.

Attempts to exploit the debt ceiling as leverage will not work. There will be no hostage-taking. The full faith and credit of our country is too important to allow any of that, because, to default would be to force extraordinary cost on the American economy and American families. Let me just give you one stat that we saw from a study, that we saw from Moody’s, that found a default would wipe out nearly six million jobs and spike unemployment. So this is Congress’ basic responsibility, and again, they should be doing this without conditions.

Speaker 7 (25:56):

Would the president consider any extraordinary executive action, minting the coin, for instance, for Congress not to raise the limit?

Karine Jean-Pierre Gaggle (26:08):

We’re not considering any measures that would go around Congress. That’s not what we’re doing. This is a fundamental congressional responsibility and Congress must act. Both Republicans and Democrats in Congress have repeatedly raised the debt ceiling, including three times under the last president, as you’ve heard me say many times before. And we believe they need to do that again.

Speaker 7 (26:30):

Did it come up on the call on Saturday?

Karine Jean-Pierre Gaggle (26:33):

I don’t have any specifics to read out on the call. Again, the president reached out directly to Speaker McCarthy to congratulate him on his win. Again, he is looking forward to working with him, in good faith, to deliver for the American people. That’s the message that we have.

Speaker 12 (26:48):

Did the president or the White House invite Governor Abbott to participate in any of today’s events? And if not, why aren’t there any Republicans on the plane today if this is an issue that will have to be resolved in a bipartisan way?

Karine Jean-Pierre Gaggle (27:01):

To answer your first question, Governor Abbott was invited to meet with the president when he arrives, and our understanding is that he will be there. And so, look, what we do, and we talked about this all the time, when the president goes to a state, we send out invites and we reach out to the various offices to let them know that we’re coming and to also invite them. Again, we understand that Governor Abbott will be there when we arrive.

Speaker 12 (27:30):

He will be there?

Karine Jean-Pierre Gaggle (27:30):

We understand that he will. That’s what we understand. And so, again, you saw the president with Governor Abbott when we came down for Uvalde and it was the same process in how we invited people with the president and the First Lady for that horrific day. And so we did the same. Again, it’s the same process that we have in any state that the president visits. There’s nothing different here.

Speaker 12 (27:54):

Thank you.

Karine Jean-Pierre Gaggle (27:54):

Thank you, guys. Meet you on the ground.

Speaker 13 (27:56):

Hey, Karine, are we going to hear from Jake today?

Karine Jean-Pierre Gaggle (27:58):

I don’t believe so. I don’t believe so.

Speaker 13 (28:02):

[inaudible 00:28:03].

Karine Jean-Pierre Gaggle (28:04):

I can ask him. He’s been busy.

Speaker 7 (28:09):

Is there anything you want to say ahead of the bilat tomorrow, if we don’t talk to you before then? What he wants to get from the meeting?

Speaker 13 (28:13):

[inaudible 00:28:14].

Karine Jean-Pierre Gaggle (28:15):

All I can say is … All right, let me give you a little bit of what we have.

Speaker 7 (28:19):

The AMLO Bilat is tomorrow afternoon.

Karine Jean-Pierre Gaggle (28:21):

Yeah. So the president’s going to have a bilat with both the President of Mexico and also with Prime Minister Trudeau while he’s in Mexico. I don’t have the exact specifics on when that’s going to happen, but, look, President Biden, Prime Minister Trudeau, and President López Obrador, what we expect coming out of this, our deliverables here is to promote a common vision for North America. And with this visit, President Biden will follow up on last year’s robust announcements with new initiatives and announcements across a broad range of issues. These include expanding our security cooperation to combat arms, drug, and human trafficking, redoubling efforts to address climate and environmental challenges, and taking additional steps to jointly address irregular migration in the region, including through the continued implementation of the principles outlined in the Los Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection.

So we’ll have a full list of all of the announcements that we foresee coming out of this trilateral summit, as we’re headed to after Texas and Mexico City. But, again, to your answer, he will have a bilat with both the Prime Minister of Canada and also the President of Mexico. Thanks, everybody.

Speaker 7 (29:41):

Thank you.

Pauline (29:41):

Thanks, Karine …

Transcribe Your Own Content

Try Rev and save time transcribing, captioning, and subtitling.