MIAMI – Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said on Monday in Miami-Dade County that the new program for refugees and asylum seekers from Cuba, Haiti, Venezuela, and Nicaragua is already working.
Amid the rise in migrants, President Joe Biden announced the new policy on Jan. 5 to allow up to 30,000 monthly permission to work in the U.S. for two years. The requirements for the program include having an eligible sponsor and passing a background check.
“We already have seen a significant number of applications,” Mayorkas said. “We already have admitted individuals into the United States and granted them work authorization.”
Records show most of the migrants had been crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, but many from Cuba and Haiti have been risking their lives at sea to get to South Florida.
“We have seen too much tragedy in the oceans of the Atlantic. We have seen a loss of life,” Mayorcas said. “We have seen loved ones lose children and family members. It is not for people to take to the seas.”
The new policy subjects refugees and asylum seekers from the four countries who arrive in the U.S. without prior authorization to expedited removals and a five-year ban for re-entry to the U.S.
“We have built lawful pathways so people can come to the United States and seek relief,” Mayorkas said. “At the same time, those who do not avail themselves of those lawful pathways will not succeed in remaining in the United States.”
Mayorcas said the issue was personal because he was born in Cuba and arrived to the U.S. as a one-year-old refugee in 1960. He met with Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, Commissioner Marleine Bastien, and a group of immigration advocates.
“People are coming because they are living in a hellish situation,” Bastien said adding that “unless you solve that ... refugees will risk their lives.”