DHS chief says situation at U.S.-Mexico border is a challenge more acute than ever before


U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas speaks throughout a press briefing at the White House in Washington, March 1, 2021.

Kevin Lemarque | Reuters

Department of Homeland Security chief Alejandro Mayorkas mentioned Sunday that the surge in unaccompanied minors at the U.S.-Mexico border poses an unprecedented challenge due to actions taken underneath former President Donald Trump, as critics accuse the present White House of being unprepared for a humanitarian disaster at the nation’s doorstep.

“There was a system in place in each Republican and Democratic administrations that was torn down throughout the Trump administration, and that is why the challenge is more acute than it ever has been before,” Mayorkas mentioned on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Mayorkas appeared on CNN, NBC and Fox on Sunday to defend the administration of President Joe Biden because it faces scrutiny over report numbers of youngsters being held in jail-like Customs and Border Protection amenities, together with hundreds past the 72-hour authorized restrict.

The Biden administration reversed a Trump-era coverage of expelling unaccompanied minors apprehended at the border, as a substitute permitting them into the United States for processing. Republicans, Democrats and human rights activists have criticized the circumstances underneath which kids are being held.

Critics have mentioned that the change in coverage has inspired unaccompanied kids to make the perilous journey at a time when the U.S. doesn’t have the infrastructure in place to correctly look after them.

Mayorkas has beforehand mentioned there is no disaster at the border, although he has acknowledged that the U.S. is on tempo to come across more people on the southwest border than anytime within the final twenty years.

The Biden administration has deployed the Federal Emergency Management Agency to maneuver kids shortly into the care of the Department of Health and Human Services till they’re positioned with a member of the family within the U.S. or a sponsor as their immigration circumstances proceed.

NBC News and different media organizations have been denied access to the facilities where the unaccompanied children are being held. Requests for images contained in the amenities have additionally been denied.

Mayorkas mentioned Sunday that his division would grant media entry to Border Patrol amenities when it may accomplish that in a secure method underneath Covid-19 well being protocols. The Trump administration allowed media entry to amenities at the peak of controversy surrounding its youngster separation coverage in 2018.

After visiting a border facility, Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., wrote on Twitter on Friday that he “fought again tears” speaking to a 13-year-old woman who defined by means of a translator “how terrified she was, having been separated from her grandmother and with out her mother and father.”

Mayorkas, pressed to supply a time frame for when the federal authorities would be capable of have the border situation underneath management, declined to take action. He mentioned that the purpose was to have the ability to meet the 72-hour time restrict as quickly as potential.

“I’ve mentioned repeatedly, from the very outset, that a Border Patrol station is no place for a youngster and that is why we’re working across the clock to maneuver these kids out of the Border Patrol amenities, into the care and custody of the Department of Health and Human Services that shelters them,” Mayorkas mentioned.

There have been 5,049 unaccompanied kids in CBP custody as of Saturday, NBC News reported.

Mayorkas mentioned that the Biden administration’s method was more humane than the one taken underneath Trump. Addressing Murphy’s tweet, Mayorkas mentioned that the 13-year-old woman would have been faraway from the United States underneath the earlier administration.

“We won’t abandon our values and our ideas. We won’t abandon the wants of weak kids. That is what this is about,” Mayorkas mentioned.

In addition to challenges brought on by the Trump administration, the DHS secretary additionally cited the Covid-19 disaster as a complicating issue.

“We are within the midst of a pandemic and that makes the operations that a lot more troublesome,” he mentioned.

On every of the three networks he appeared on on Sunday, Mayorkas repeated that the border was “closed.” He instructed migrants to not try and cross the U.S.-Mexico border at this time.

“We strongly urge — and the message is clear — not to take action now. I can not overstate the perils of the journey that they take,” Mayorkas mentioned on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

The situation at the border is complicating a push by Democrats for bipartisan immigration reform.

The House of Representatives passed two bills last week that might create a path to citizenship or authorized standing for hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants, however that laws faces an uphill battle within the Senate.

A more formidable complete immigration reform bundle backed by the White House and launched in Congress in February seems much less prone to achieve help.

Mayorkas was confirmed by the Senate on Feb. 2 by a vote of 56-43.

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