Secretary of State Mike Pompeo answered questions on The Laura Ingram Show on December, 20, 2018. During the interview, Secretary Pompeo mentions the Trump administration’s “remain in Mexico” policy, which he announced later that day. The transcript below was edited to only include issues related to Latin America and the Caribbean.
QUESTION: There’s a – I know there’s a big announcement today about what we’re going to be doing with Mexico and perhaps Central America vis-a-vis our border and other efforts to keep people in their homelands, where they’re going to be working and able to raise their children there and hold on to their own culture and so forth. What can you tell us?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So we’re announcing today what I think is a truly groundbreaking plan to keep illegal aliens out of the United States. It is a very significant border security development. It will no longer be the case that aliens who come here remain inside the United States during the pendency of their asylum claims.
So the idea of catch and release will be replaced with catch and return. We expect this will result in a truly historic drop in illegal immigration, because the incentive to come here – file an asylum claim and remain in the United States during the pendency of that claim – will no longer exist.
QUESTION: And is this in consultation with other countries’ presidents and leadership so they are on board with the receiving of migrants back to their home countries?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So we will be returning the detainees to Mexico – or, excuse me, the illegal aliens to Mexico. We’ve made clear to the Mexican Government our intent to do this, and they have made an announcement – or shortly will make an announcement – about how they’re going to deal with those returned migrants. They’re going to offer them opportunities inside of their country to protect the rights of those migrants, but they will not be inside the United States during the time that their asylum claim is being processed.
QUESTION: Oh, that’s – this is a groundbreaking move. And I know you’ve been working on – I know – I follow your travel schedule from afar and I kind of see where – thinking, hmm, Pompeo and Nielsen – they’re up to something. Something – and I was hoping there was something good.
But you always have to deal with the lawsuits. You’ve had ACLU and various migrant groups and NGOs getting together, pooling money, pooling resources. And you have these nationwide permanent and temporary injunctions that continue to thwart the President’s article – his Article III authority to – I mean Article I authority, excuse me – to protect our country. And what are you going to do about that? Because you know the moment this is announced they’re going to take you to court.
SECRETARY POMPEO: So we hope that’s not the case, but we expect that you’re right about that. This is pretty clear. The Immigration and Naturalization Act’s Section 235 makes clear that the President has the authority to do this; it’s under existing law. And we remain convinced that this is a power that the President was granted by Congress to execute exactly the way we have. We’ve had lots of thought and legal review of this. We are confident that we are on firm ground. And we know that the fact that these folks will be taken care of – they’ll get more help in Mexico – will solve the problem we’ve had of folks coming into the United States, claiming asylum, and then disappearing into our country during the pendency of their claim.
QUESTION: Okay. So when someone comes here – let’s say they walk across the border; they claim asylum and cite – they make the credible fear threshold, persecution in homeland, which is – again, we got a judge yesterday, Emmet Sullivan, who has basically said you – gang violence and domestic abuse both count now as asylum categories. So at that point, when they claim asylum, their case would be pending. Would they have to then go back home, if they claim – make that threshold claim of credible fear?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So there will obviously be a detailed process for the claims that these folks will be making. I’ll leave to DHS to talk about the details of how that will be processed. But this is a fundamental shift in how the United States is going to handle the disposition of these illegal aliens during the time that their claim is being processed. We’re confident we’re on firm legal ground and we think this is, frankly, in the best interest of these migrants as well. We think that they will now see that they can’t disappear inside the United States, and so they will remain in their home countries, a place that doesn’t present all the risks that we have seen to these migrants, these illegal aliens entering the United States, that comes from making the transit through Mexico into our country.