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Secretary Antony J. Blinken with Amna Nawaz of PBS NewsHour

QUESTION:  Secretary Blinken, welcome to the NewsHour.  Thank you for joining us.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Good to be with you.

QUESTION:  So we are speaking at a time of unprecedented global migration.  As you well know, our southern border is no exception.  As Title 42 goes into ending tonight, we’re already seeing, what, some 8- or 9,000 apprehensions a day at the U.S. southern border.  Officials are saying some 65,000 people are waiting in northern Mexico to try and cross after it ends.  We’re facing an unprecedented test of our system.  What are you worried about at this moment in time?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, first, it is important to emphasize that this is unprecedented because we are facing around the world more people on the move than at any time in recorded history, displaced from their homes for one reason or another.  And that’s powerfully true in our own hemisphere, and of course, that brings them in our direction.

We have been working on this for – literally day one of this administration, and the most important thing is this.  It is getting a shared sense of responsibility across this hemisphere for the challenge of migration.  And we’ve been doing that.  President Biden’s been leading that effort.  We brought countries together in Los Angeles at the Summit of the Americas, and out of that came the Los Angeles Declaration on Migration, where countries are stepping up to do things that they weren’t doing before to help all of us get control of migration in the hemisphere.

QUESTION:  Those are long-term solutions.  Mr. Secretary, what are you worried about in the immediate term?  When this rule ends tonight, what worries you?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Some is long term, but of course many other things are immediate.  For example, just in recent months we struck an agreement with Mexico that’s very important where Mexico has agreed to take a thousand people a day who come across and don’t have lawful status in the United States from four countries – from Venezuela, from Nicaragua, from Haiti, and from Cuba.

At the same time, we’re working very closely with other countries to be able to repatriate people who come across unlawfully, sending them back on flights.  And we’re also sending the message out that, no, the border is not open; and on the contrary, do not put yourself in the hands of smugglers, don’t pay the exorbitant costs that come with trying to get here, don’t risk your lives, because it won’t work.

And finally, one of the new programs that we’re instituting and that you’ll see come to fruition in the weeks ahead are something we’re calling Regional Processing Centers.  This gives people an opportunity in their own countries to make a determination about whether they are eligible legally to come to the United States by one of the various lawful pathways that exist; for example, to get a work visa, to be reunited with family, to qualify as a refugee.  And making that accessible, making that available to people, gives them an opportunity in their own countries to find out if they can come to the United States lawfully instead, again, of making the incredibly hazardous journey all the way to our border, with all the dangers and all the costs that come with that, only to find out that no, they can’t get in.

QUESTION:  There is a new transit rule, an asylum rule, going into effect.  I want to ask you about it.  It basically bars anyone from seeking asylum here in the United States if they didn’t first seek protection in another country that they passed through on their way to the U.S.  As you know, immigration advocates say this basically mirrors a rule that the Trump administration put into place that was later struck down in the courts.  But I’m curious.  From your perspective, what is – what is the safe third option for people making this dangerous trek where you would have them seek protection first before they get to the U.S.?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, this does go to the shared sense of responsibility that we’re trying to build across the hemisphere.  And to the extent someone is going through a country where there is an opportunity to seek asylum and they haven’t availed themselves of that opportunity, we’re saying you need to do that.  But we’re not just saying that.  We’re also working with these countries to strengthen their own asylum systems, to strengthen the protections that they offer to migrants, as well as to strengthen opportunity so that people who may choose to avail themselves of asylum in a third country have something to go to and something to look toward.  So —

QUESTION:  To that point, Mr. Secretary, though – pardon the interruption.


QUESTION:  I know your time is limited.  What countries would you consider safe options?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, I don’t want to get into —

QUESTION:  I know you’re working towards that, but today.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  I don’t want to get into a list of countries.  But I can say, for example, that with Mexico we’re working very closely and we have been for some period of time in helping them to strengthen their own asylum system.  In Mexico, for example, right now there are in parts of the country labor shortages that they’re interested in meeting through migration done lawfully.  So if we can support that, that may be one opportunity for people.

QUESTION:  Mr. Secretary, with all due respect, Mexico’s murder rate is four times that of the United States.  Your own State Department has issued several travel warnings, do not travel warnings, for a number of states across Mexico for U.S. citizens.  Why would that be a considered a safe option for anyone making that journey?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  It’s, as you know, a vast country with big differences depending on where you are in the country, so a lot depends on what part of the country we’re talking about.  But I cite that simply as one example of work that we’re doing with countries across the hemisphere to strengthen the protections that they offer, to strengthen their own asylum systems, as well as to cooperate with us as necessary on repatriations even as we are working to expand legal pathways to this country.

QUESTION:  I’d like to ask you about Ukraine, if I may.  Just today, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that the West had not delivered enough armored vehicles for them to launch a counteroffensive.  Just a couple of days ago, you said that you believe they do have in place what they need to continue to be successful in regaining territory.  So how should we understand that?  Who’s right?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, from day one and as – even before day one, we’ve been working overtime to try to make sure that Ukraine had in its hands what it needs to defend itself against the Russian aggression.  First, when we saw it coming, we wanted to make sure that they had what they needed if it came.  And indeed, with the Stingers and Javelins that we provided going back to before the Russian aggression, they were able to repel the efforts to take Kyiv and take the whole country.

At every step along the way ever since, we’ve worked with now more than 50 countries to adjust, to adapt, depending on the nature of the fight, where it was, what was needed, to make sure that, again, they had what they needed.  And it’s a process and we’re working literally every single day with the Ukrainians and with this coalition of countries to make sure they have support.  If there are gaps, if there are shortages, they’ll tell us and we will make every effort to make good on them.

QUESTION:  They have been asking and requesting these longer-range missiles from the U.S., up to a 185-mile range.  The U.S. has so far refused those requests, but British officials say they will send to Ukraine missiles with a 180-mile range, which is basically the same.  What’s the U.S. argument right now for refusing to send those to Ukraine?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  It’s precisely why we have a coalition of countries that are supporting Ukraine.  Different countries will do different things depending on their own capacities, depending on their own technology, depending on what makes the most sense.  So we’ve provided some things uniquely to Ukraine through this process.  Other countries may do things different than what we’re doing.  The question is:  Does the whole thing add up to what Ukraine needs?  And we’re determined that it – that it do so.

And again, it’s also —

QUESTION:  So you support the British decision, then?  There’s no fear of escalation with the British providing those longer-range missiles?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  All of this, again, is done through a coalition and coordinated process.  Secretary Austin’s been leading that for many months now.  And as I’ve said before, it’s not only the weapons systems.  It’s the training, because you can give someone a great weapons system; if they don’t know how to use it, it’s not going to do them much good.  It’s the maintenance, because if they don’t know how to maintain it, you give it to them and it falls apart in seven days, it’s not going to do you much good.  And of course, it’s understanding how to use all of these things in a cohesive and effective plan – combined arms, as it’s called in the business.  All of these things are what we’ve been working on, and we’re doing it in a coordinated way.  Different countries take different pieces of this.

QUESTION:  As you know, President Zelenskyy criticized the U.S. after those intelligence leaks by the junior airman Jack Teixeira in Massachusetts, calling them not beneficial to the reputation of the United States.  Do you believe that the U.S. Intelligence Community fully has its arms around the extent of that leak?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  We are, as always, working overtime to make sure that we’re protecting the information that needs to be protected, including in this instance and also more broadly.  And we’ve had conversations with partners around the world about this making clear to them the importance that we attach to it.

I’ve got to say in the many, many meetings, engagements, trips I’ve been on since this incident, it’s almost never come up from one of our partners.  In fact, I brought it up just to reassure people that we’re intensely focused on this and making sure that the information that we have is protected.

But the other side of the equation is this.  Allies and partners around the world know the extraordinary value of the information that we’re able to develop.  They know how important it’s been to them.  And of course, they want to make sure that we preserve it.

QUESTION:  That is U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken joining us tonight.  Secretary Blinken, thank you very much.  Please come back soon.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thanks.  Good to be with you.

Official news published at https://www.state.gov/secretary-antony-j-blinken-with-amna-nawaz-of-pbs-newshour/

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