Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas released a lengthy statement Tuesday saying the Biden administration is “tackling” the “situation” at the U.S.-Mexico border. His comments were quickly criticized by Republicans, including House Border Security Caucus Chair Rep. Brian Babin, R-TX.
“I’m not sure who the administration thinks they’re fooling by saying ‘we’ve got this under control’. The facts and numbers don’t lie – we’ve already surpassed the total numbers from all of 2018,” Babin said in a statement to this reporter Tuesday.
While Mayorkas acknowledged the surge in illegal immigration, he avoided calling the issue an all-out crisis or emergency. He also said that the Biden administration isn’t responsible for the issue.
“The situation we are currently facing at the southwest border is a difficult one,” Mayorkas said. “We are tackling it. We are keeping our borders secure, enforcing our laws, and staying true to our values and principles. We can do so because of the incredible talent and unwavering dedication of our workforce.”
Mayorkas continued, “I came to this country as an infant, brought by parents who understood the hope and promise of America. Today, young children are arriving at our border with that same hope. We can do this.”
Additionally, he ensured that the U.S. is sending “most” single adults and families back to Mexico and some to their home countries and that the situation with COVID-19 is being mitigated. He added, “we are on pace to encounter more individuals on the southwest border than we have in the last 20 years. We are expelling most single adults and families. We are not expelling unaccompanied children.”
Since Jan. 25, 210 migrants in Brownsville, Texas, for example, have tested positive for COVID-19, according to local reports. Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-TX, have asserted that the issue could lead to a surge in COVID-19 cases among the public.
Still, Chair of the White House COVID Equity Task Force Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith said on Sunday that there’s no “evidence to support” the claim that migrants are spreading COVID-19 to the public.
National Border Patrol Council Vice President Chris Cabrera recently told Sara Carter on “Hannity” that there’s an estimated 700-1,000 migrants crossing the Texas border each day.
“Huge groups are coming because they know they are going to be let go,” Cabrera said. “And once they get here no matter what they hear our politicians say… as long as one person gets through they call back home and say this is what we did this is how we got through…”
When asked about his message to the Biden administration and lawmakers in Washington, D.C., he said, “This needs to stop being a partisan issue.”
With unaccompanied children, DHS now refers the minors to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) within 72 hours of their arrival into the U.S., according to DHS. Moreover, Mayorkas said the unaccompanied minors are tested for COVID-19 and quarantined, and later sent to a sponsor or in some cases their family within the U.S.
“In more than 80 percent of cases, the child has a family member in the United States. In more than 40 percent of cases, that family member is a parent or legal guardian,” Mayorkas said. “These are children being reunited with their families who will care for them.”
The influx of unaccompanied minors has overwhelmed Border Patrol and Mayorkas recognized that in his statement. “The Border Patrol facilities have become crowded with children and the 72-hour timeframe for the transfer of children from the Border Patrol to HHS is not always met,” he said. “HHS has not had the capacity to intake the number of unaccompanied children we have been encountering.”
To mitigate the influx of migrants entering the U.S., Mayorkas recently deployed the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and recruited 560 DHS volunteers to help house unaccompanied children at the border.
Mayorkas said the “challenge” at the border right now largely stemmed from the Trump administration’s border policies. In response to the blame-shifting, Babin said, “Instead of stepping up, securing our border, and putting the safety of Americans, and migrants, first, President Biden is doing what the Democrats do best – blaming Donald Trump.”
He added, “This is a true border crisis and an absolute catastrophe that could have been avoided.”
Follow Jennie Taer on Twitter @JennieSTaer
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