Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas in a series of interviews on Sunday morning shows defended the Biden administration’s handing over the spiraling crisis that has seen a surge of illegal migrants arriving at the southern border, claiming the “border is closed,” while shifting the blame to former President Trump.
In a circuit of interviews, Mayorkas emphasized that the administration’s message to those seeking entry is that “the border is closed.”
“The message is quite clear, do not come. The border is closed. The border is secure. We are expelling families. We are expelling single adults under the CDC’s authority under Title 42 of the United States Code because we are in the midst of a pandemic, and that is a public health imperative,” Mayorkas told ABC “This Week,” when pressed on the issue.
“We are building safe, orderly, and humane ways to address the needs of vulnerable children. Do not come,” Mayorkas added.
DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas addresses the surge of migrants at the border: "When I say it takes time, I mean it. Because we are dealing with a dismantled system." https://t.co/COj3g4MhLm pic.twitter.com/cMAE5SO8hp
— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) March 21, 2021
The DHS chief said the Biden administration has a plan to build capacity at shelters and help either reunite children with their families or other guardians or transfer them to safer facilities.
“Martha, it takes time,” Mayorkas said, arguing the Trump administration would have turned the minors away. “When I say it takes time, I mean it, because we’re dealing with a dismantled system. And we did not have the ordinary safe and just transition from one administration to another.”
Mayorkas, who last week in a statement warned that the surge will likely reach a two-decade peak. pushed back on such characterizations by blaming the Trump administration for the border crisis, saying his department is now rebuilding it “from scratch.”
“Trump dismantled the orderly, humane and efficient way of allowing children to make their claims under U.S. law in their home countries,” Mayorkas declared on NBC News’ “Meet the Press” interview, adding that the administration is now “rebuilding those orderly and safe processes as quickly as possible.”
He repeated the blame game squarely on the previous administration in other circuit appearances. On “Fox News Sunday,” Mayorkas said the Biden administration replaced the Trump administration’s “Remain in Mexico” policy with a “safe and orderly triage system working with our partners in Mexico and humanitarian organizations in the international space” while again emphasizing that the “border was closed.”
“We are a nation of laws and we treat vulnerable children humanely. We can do it. And we are doing it,” Mayokras asserted to Fox anchor Chris Wallace.
When pressed on CNN’s “State of the Union” on the reported conditions at the border facilities, Mayorkas acknowledged that the border facilities are “no place for a child,” before shifting the blame on Trump.
“Dana, we will not abandon our values and our principles, we will not abandon the needs of vulnerable children. That is what this is all about,” Mayorkas said. “And it is difficult because the entire system was dismantled by the prior administration. There was a system in place in both Republican and Democratic administrations, that was torn down during the Trump administration, and that is why the challenge is more acute than it ever has been before.”
DHS Chief Mayorkas places blame on the Trump admin for the current surge in migrants at the border: "There was a system in place in both Republican and Democratic administrations that was torn down during the Trump administration" #CNNSOTU https://t.co/oZKfufDioC pic.twitter.com/617RAvysBP
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) March 21, 2021
The Biden administration has admittedly refused to call the situation mounting on the border a “crisis,” as they are battling in the two short months since taking office a surge of migrants including many unaccompanied children at an alarming rate.
The administration has not allowed any media into the facilities on the border to observe conditions, with reports that a “gag order” was issued to federal agencies to limit the operations on the border.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) slammed the “gag order” on Friday, calling the move “outrageous and unacceptable” and asked, “What is Biden hiding?”
No press. No cameras.
What is Biden hiding?
Next week, I’m bringing 15 senators to the border. DHS said NO to our request to bring media.
Outrageous & unacceptable.
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) March 19, 2021
Mayorkas said the Biden administration plans to release video “footage” of the conditions of the inside of migrant detention facilities when pressed on restricting media access to the federal facilities
“We’re working on providing footage so the American public can see the border patrol stations, and I would encourage you and other reporters to see the facilities under the control of the Health and Human Services Department where those children are sheltered, and where they belong, and where we are moving them as quickly as possible,” Mayorkas told Fox News Host Chris Wallace.
Wallace stated that Mayorkas’ response sounded like “an excuse” and pointed to “safe condition” where the press crew could enter one of the facilities and record the children, even during a pandemic.
The DHS Chief told NBC News that the agency was “not focused on ride-along right now.”
As of March 20, the number of unaccompanied migrant minors the U.S. government was housing had reached 15,500, including 5,000 teenagers and children stranded in Border Patrol facilities not designed for long-term custody, according to CBS News who reviewed the government new data. Unaccompanied children are spending an average of 136 hours in CBP custody, well beyond the 72-hour limit outlined in U.S. law.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) spokesperson Mark Weber said the department was housing nearly 10,500 unaccompanied children in emergency housing facilities and shelters licensed by states to care for minors. More than 5,000 unaccompanied minors are currently being held in a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) tent holding facility in south Texas and other stations along the border with Mexico.
On Saturday, HHS notified Congress that it would be opening a new detention facility in Pecos, Texas, the fourth facility for unaccompanied minors opened by the Biden administration.
President Joe Biden who was returning to the White House from the presidential retreat at Camp David, Maryland Sunday evening told reporters when asked if he plans to visit the Southern border said he would “at some point” while confirming that he knows “what is going on in those facilities” when asked if he wanted to see the situation first hand, but refused to elaborate further.
But when asked whether the administration could do more to emphasize that migrants should not be coming across the border, Biden admitted the administration could do “a lot more.”
“We’re in the process of doing it now, including making sure that we reestablish what existed before, which was they can stay in place and make their case from their home country,” Biden said.