Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas has claimed that the number of people looking to enter the U.S. at the sourthern border could be the highest in 20 years, but in an interview with “Fox News Sunday” he claimed that this is because of the Trump administration’s actions, not policy changes that took place in the early days of President Biden‘s administration.
Biden has scrapped a number of Trump’s policies which included having asylum seekers remain in Mexico instead of staying in the U.S. while they wait for their cases to be heard. Mayorkas denied that Biden’s changes have encouraged the current migrant surge.
“What we are seeing is the result of President Trump’s dismantlement of the safe and orderly immigration processes that were built over many, many years by presidents of both parties,” Mayorkas said. “That’s what we are seeing, and that’s why it’s taking time for us to execute our plans to administer the humanitarian claims of vulnerable children. That’s what this is about.”
Addressing the elimination of the remain in Mexico policy, Mayorkas said the Biden administration has replaced this “with a safe and orderly triage system working with our partners in Mexico and humanitarian organizations in the international space and we are not expelling vulnerable children.” The secretary also defended Biden’s elimination of Trump’s “safe third country” agreements which required migrants to seek asylum in another country first if they were passing through a safe country on their way to the U.S.
Mayorkas also asserted that the Biden administration has been sending a message discouraging children from trying to enter the U.S. right now “because we are rebuilding orderly processes for them as well, as the country always had until the prior administration.”
Despite that message, however, data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, shows that the numbers of migrants have gone up tremendously since Biden took office and changed immigration policies.
“Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace noted that according to CBP, officials apprehended 100,441 people at the border in February, Biden’s first full month in office. This is much higher than the 74,018 people apprehended at the border in December, which was Trump’s last full month in office. The number of unaccompanied minors at the border nearly doubled in that time, from 4,993 in December to 9,457 in February.
Wallace also pointed out that more than 58% of family units who crossed the border in February were allowed to remain in the U.S. instead of being sent back.
Despite those numbers, Mayorkas insisted that the U.S. is working with Mexico so they can take more families who are sent out of the U.S.
“The border is secure, the border is closed,” Mayorkas said. “We’ve been unequivocal in that and we are operationalizing our processes, executing our plans. We are a nation of laws and we treat vulnerable humanely. We can do it and we are doing it.”
Another point of controversy during the border crisis has been the lack of media access at the border. This included when Mayorkas himself would not allow reporters to see conditions in which minors were being kept when he traveled to the border with members of Congress on Friday.
“Let’s not forget that we’re in the midst of a pandemic,” Mayorkas said, adding that “hundreds of vulnerable children” are in the crowded facilities. He then claimed that the administration is “working on providing footage so that the American public can see the border patrol stations.”
Wallace pushed back, stating that a pool reporter and camera crew should be able to get in without posing a problem.
“We’re working on providing access,” Mayorkas replied, again noting the problem of the coronavirus pandemic.