Mayorkas defends Biden's executive action — but doesn't say when it might start working

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Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Sunday defended the Biden administration’s new executive action on the border — an order that aims to get the average of migrant encounters at the border to 1,500 or less.

It’s a level that has not been seen since President Joe Biden took office. And Mayorkas could not confirm if that level will be seen before Election Day. The order, focused on people seeking asylum at the border, was initiated five days ago.

“We are at a very early stage. Implementation, as you noted, has just begun,” Mayorkas said in an interview with host Martha Raddatz on ABC's “This Week” on Sunday. “It's early, the signs are positive. Our personnel have done an extraordinary job in implementing a very big shift in how we operate on the southern border.”

Biden implemented an executive action on the southern border Tuesday, the latest attempt from the president to crack down on immigration as the southern border ahead of the election this fall. It also comes months after former President Donald Trump helped tank a bipartisan border deal that failed to make it out of the Senate.

When asked about when we will actually see this goal reached — and whether the effects would realistically become apparent soon or before the election — Mayorkas did not disclose any timing.

“An average of 1,500 individuals encountered over a seven-day consecutive period — we are driving to that and that's not all we're doing. We are also communicating throughout the region about the lawful pathways,” Mayorkas said, before Raddatz noted that was something that had been done before the order. Mayorkas said Congress needs to legislate.

Mayorkas also danced around why the order was issued now, four months following the bipartisan border deal failed.

“The bipartisan deal was rejected once, we pressed for it again, it was rejected a second time, and then we developed this and have implemented it, and we are at an early stage, and let's not minimize the significance of this move and the significance of operationalizing it,” Mayorkas said when pressed twice on why the order is being added months after it was clear the deal would not go anywhere.

Raddatz also brought up Biden’s previous words from the 2020 campaign that said the United States should “enforce our immigration laws with dignity, not turn away those fleeing violence, war and poverty” and whether the order contradicts this statement.

Mayorkas doubled down on defending the action — in addition to defending its legality as the American Civil Liberties Union threatens to sue over it. It’s something Mayorkas said he anticipates.

“We stand by the legality of what we have done. We stand by the value proposition. It's not only a matter of securing the border, Martha, we have a humanitarian obligation to keep vulnerable people out of the hands of exploitative smugglers,” Mayorkas said. “There have been many a story about the trauma and the tragedy inflicted by those organizations.”