U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas speaks during a press conference at the White House in Washington on March 1, 2021.
Kevin Lemarque | Reuters
Homeland Security chief Alejandro Mayorkas said Sunday the surge in unaccompanied minors on the U.S.-Mexico border is an unprecedented challenge as action has been taken under former President Donald Trump as critics accuse the current White House of not up To be prepared for a humanitarian crisis is the nation’s doorstep.
“There was a system in both the Republican and Democratic governments that was torn down during the Trump administration, and so the challenge is more acute than ever,” Mayorkas told CNN’s State of the Union.
Mayorkas appeared on CNN, NBC and Fox on Sunday to defend President Joe Biden’s administration as it scrutinized the record number of children held in prison-like customs and border guards, including thousands over the legal limit of 72 Hours go out.
The Biden administration reversed a Trump-era policy of expelling unaccompanied minors arrested at the border and instead admitting them to the United States for processing. Republicans, Democrats and human rights activists have criticized the conditions in which children are being held.
Critics said the policy change has encouraged unaccompanied children to make the dangerous journey at a time when the U.S. does not have the infrastructure to properly care for them.
Mayorkas has previously said there is no crisis on the border, despite admitting the US is well on its way to meeting more people on the southwest border than it has ever done in the past two decades.
The Biden administration has set up the Federal Emergency Management Agency to quickly place children under the care of the Department of Health and Human Services until they are placed with a family member in the US or with a sponsor while their immigration cases progress.
NBC News and other media outlets have been denied access to the facilities where unaccompanied children are held. Requests for photos inside the facilities were also denied.
Mayorkas said on Sunday that his department will allow the media access to Border Patrol facilities if it can be done safely under Covid-19’s health protocols. The Trump administration gave media access to facilities at the height of the controversy over its child segregation policy in 2018.
After visiting a border agency, Senator Chris Murphy, D-Conn. Wrote on Twitter Friday that he “fought back” the tears and spoke to a 13-year-old girl who, through an interpreter, explained “how scared she was after seeing them had been.” separated from her grandmother and without her parents. “
Mayorkas, who was urged to set a time frame for the control of the border situation by the federal government, refused. He said the goal is to be able to meet the 72-hour time limit as quickly as possible.
“I have repeatedly said from the start that a border guard station is not a place for a child, and that’s why we are working around the clock to get these children out of the border guards and into the care of the children. Ministry of Health and Human Services, that protects them, “said Mayorkas.
According to NBC News, 5,049 unaccompanied children were in CBP detention as of Saturday.
Mayorkas said the Biden administration’s approach was more humane than Trump’s. On Murphy’s tweet, Mayorkas said the 13-year-old girl would have been removed from the United States under the previous administration.
“We will not give up our values and principles. We will not give up the needs of vulnerable children. That is what this is about,” Mayorkas said.
In addition to the challenges caused by the Trump administration, the DHS secretary also cited the Covid-19 crisis as a complicating factor.
“We are in the middle of a pandemic and that makes operations a lot more difficult,” he said.
In each of the three networks in which he appeared on Sunday, Mayorkas repeated that the border was “closed”. He told the migrants not to attempt to cross the US-Mexico border at this time.
“We urge – and the message is clear – urgently not to do this now. I cannot exaggerate the dangers of the journey you are making,” Mayorkas said on NBC’s Meet the Press.
The situation on the border makes it difficult for the Democrats to reform bipartisan immigration.
The House of Representatives passed two bills last week that would pave the way for citizenship or the legal status of millions of undocumented immigrants, but the legislature faces an uphill battle in the Senate.
A more ambitious comprehensive immigration reform package, backed by the White House and introduced in Congress in February, appears to be receiving less support.
Mayorkas was confirmed by the Senate on February 2nd with 56-43 votes.
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