Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told CBS News on Thursday morning that if “loving parents” send their child alone to the U.S.-Mexico border, the Biden administration will not only not expel the child, but will also “care for” the child.
When asked by one of the hosts how long migrants should wait before trying to reach the U.S., Mayorkas said, “in weeks, in several months, we will expand the legal processes that we already have started to rebuild.”
“We already have reinstituted the Central American minors program that was built in the Obama-Biden administration and that was torn down by the prior administration, but we well understand that out of desperation, some children might not wait,” he continued. “Some loving parents might send their child to traverse Mexico alone, to reach the southern border, our southern border. I hope they don’t undertake that perilous journey, but if they do, we will not expel that young child. We will care for that young child and unite that child with a responsible parent. That is who we are as a nation, and we can do it.”
— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) March 18, 2021
CBS NEWS: The Secretary of Homeland Security is telling Congress that the U.S. southern border is secure, not wide open. DHS warned this week that the U.S. is on pace to see its largest wave of migrants in two decades. In a House Committee hearing yesterday, Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas called the southern border situation undoubtedly difficult, but he disagreed with Republicans who call it a crisis. Republicans blame the Biden administration saying it created the surge of migrants by rolling back Trump era policies.
And DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas joins us now, Mr. Secretary, good morning to you. I think it’s fair to say that most Americans have been troubled by the pictures they’ve seen along the U.S. border. But I want to start with what we have not seen, and that is the conditions inside these facilities where now thousands of children are being held; outside observers have not been allowed in to see it with their own eyes. So why not? And have you toured the facilities? Can you describe the conditions for us this morning?
ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS, DHS SECRETARY: Thank you very much for having me on the show. And I certainly have toured the facilities, and I will be taking another trip to the border. But let me take a step back first, and then answer your question directly. I want to repeat my assurance to our audience this morning that the border is in fact, secure. What we are speaking of is children, many children arriving at our border, who are fleeing poverty, violence in their countries of origin. We continue under our public health authorities, to expel families, to expel single adults, to address the needs of the pandemic, we have made a different decision than the prior administration. We do not expel young children back into the environment of poverty and violence from which they are fleeing. And we’re seeing a number of them. And I’ve said repeatedly … that the Border Patrol station is no place for a child, and so we are working with the Department of Health and Human Services to move those children out as quickly as possible and unite them with their parent, legal guardian, or other responsible relative here in the United States.
CBS NEWS: Mr. Secretary, could you take a run at the conditions there? Because we’ve heard from from lawyers who have spoken to the children that some of them are taking turns sleeping on the floor because there’s not enough space. You said you took tours. What did you see? What are the conditions?
MAYORKAS: You know, the conditions, Tony, depend on which Border Patrol station we are speaking of; let me address the Border Patrol station that I most recently visited. It’s crowded — and remember we’re dealing with a pandemic and so we’re dealing with restrictions on physical distancing and the like, but the mattresses, the blankets are actually selectively chosen so that they’re safest for the children. What we don’t want to do is have a maybe a traditional mattress with fabric, because it breeds lice and other conditions. So actually, the equipment, the provisions that we give to these children are selectively chosen for their care. But I have to repeat, because I don’t mean to walk away from this, the Border Patrol station is not a place for children. And so we are working very quickly with our sister department that shelters the children, pending their placement with a responsible adult. We’re partnering with them to move them quickly.
CBS NEWS: Mr. Secretary, I want to pick up on that point that the border facilities are not a place for children. The prior administration had a very clear, if morally debatable, message to families who wanted to come to the border and children, it was: do not come. Your message is a little more nuanced. For families listening this morning, making a decision about staying where they are, which is dangerous, and coming to the U.S. border, what do you tell them?
MAYORKAS: I tell them do not come. And let me explain why I say do not come. It is born of a very different approach than the prior administration. It’s ‘do not come’ because it is not safe to take the journey. It is not safe in a time of pandemic to arrive at the border. Families and single adults are being expelled. Let us build, let us rebuild, if I may, a safe, orderly way for you to apply for humanitarian relief under the laws of our country. That is who we are. It is ‘do not come,’ but while we are rebuilding the system that was dismantled by the prior administration, we will make the conditions as safe as possible for the children whom we are not expelling.
CBS NEWS: Mr. Secretary, according to our information, as many as 500 children, unaccompanied children a day are now arriving at the border. My question is, how are you going to stop that at this point? Because the people we’ve talked to there say this is going to continue because desperate families believe the border is open.
MAYORKAS: Well, so let me draw a distinction between families, if I may, and children who come without an adult — some of these children are as young as seven, eight-year-old girls. And so we do not expel them back into the desert. But we say ‘do not come’ because it is dangerous. There are children, tragically, who do not make it to the border because of the perils of the journey. And so I cannot overemphasize the importance of the message of do not come, but for those who arrive—
CBS NEWS: I was gonna say, Mr. Secretary, I cannot begin to imagine the difficult decision that these families are making. And if you say to them this morning, do not come, the next question is going to be: how long do I wait, and what am I waiting for? Is there going to come a moment where you say, okay, now’s the time.
MAYORKAS: In weeks, in several months, we will expand the legal processes that we already have started to rebuild. We already have reinstituted the Central American minors program that was built in the Obama-Biden administration and that was torn down by the prior administration, but we well understand that out of desperation, some children might not wait. Some loving parents might send their child to traverse Mexico alone, to reach the southern border, our southern border. I hope they don’t undertake that perilous journey, but if they do, we will not expel that young child. We will care for that young child and unite that child with a responsible parent. That is who we are as a nation, and we can do it.
CBS NEWS: Alright, Secretary Mayorkas, the conversation will continue. We thank you very much this morning.