Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas ominously warned Cubans on Tuesday that they would not be permitted to enter the United States if they flee from their homeland amid rising tensions between the Cuban communist government and Cubans demanding freedom.
What did Mayorkas say?
Mayorkas, whose own family escaped Cuba, claimed the Biden administration stands in "solidarity with the Cuban people and their call for freedom."
But in the very same breath, Mayorkas rebuked Cubans — and Haitians — from seeking refuge in America via sea travel.
"The Coast Guard, along with our state, local, and federal partners are monitoring any activity that may indicate increases in unsafe and irregular maritime migration in the Florida straits, including unpermitted vessel departures from Florida to Cuba," the secretary said. "The time is never right to attempt migration by sea. To those who risk their lives doing so, this risk is not worth taking."
"Allow me to be clear: If you take to the sea, you will not come to the United States," he added.
Despite the overwhelming proof that the Cuban government is using deadly force to squash the protests, Mayorkas said such refugees will never set foot on U.S. soil.
"If individuals make, establish a well-founded fear of persecution or torture, they are referred to third countries for resettlement," Mayorkas said. "They will not enter the United States."
What has Mayorkas said before?
The shocking comments, which came as Cuban Americans like Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) call on the Biden administration to vocally support the Cuban people, communicate a significantly different tone about Cuban refugees than what Mayorkas has said previously.
After being nominated by President Joe Biden, for example, Mayorkas tweeted, "When I was very young, the United States provided my family and me a place of refuge. Now, I have been nominated to be the DHS Secretary and oversee the protection of all Americans and those who flee persecution in search of a better life for themselves and their loved ones."
That same refuge, under his leadership, is now apparently unavailable to his own people.
Mayorkas' posture toward the Cuban people is also sharply distinct from the Biden administration's position on migrants traveling through Mexico to claim asylum in America. Blaming the border crisis on climate change, the Biden administration has seemingly welcomed those migrants with open arms.
Mayorkas' comments were denounced by refugee advocates.
Kennji Kizuka, an associate director at Human Rights First, told CBS News, "The U.S. government shouldn't be using this system of off-shore processing to evade our refugee protection laws. They should allow people to land in the United States and go through their full asylum proceedings."
Katharina Obser of the Migrant Rights & Justice Program at the Women's Refugee Commission told the Washington Post that advocates were "gravely disappointed" by the Biden administration's "repeated insistence on rejecting desperate families, children, and single adults from our borders, whether by foot or by sea."