Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said Tuesday that the United States is on pace to experience the highest number of illegal border crossings in 20 years. He also admitted that the situation is “difficult” but again stopped short of calling it a “crisis” and insisted that the situation is under control.
Appearing on Good Morning America, Mayorkas echoed other Biden administration officials in blaming the ongoing child migrant issue on the Trump administration’s immigration policies, which turned away “vulnerable children,” forcing them to remain in Mexico while their asylum claims were processed.
“They are vulnerable children and we have ended the prior administration’s practice of expelling them,” Mayorkas said.
ABC News noted Tuesday that the border issue is, in fact, significant and that DHS is struggling, behind the scenes, with its own policy allowing for migrant children to remain in United States custody pending an immigration proceeding.
“The number of children crossing by themselves rose 60% from January to more than 9,400 in February, the most recent statistics available,” the outlet noted. “The overall increase is blamed on a number of factors, including the economic upheaval caused by the pandemic in Central America and two recent hurricanes in the region. U.S. officials have also conceded that smugglers have likely encouraged people to try to cross under the new administration.”
He did admit, though, that the Biden administration has not ended a Trump administration policy expelling illegal border jumpers who are not unaccompanied minor children over concerns that an influx of asylum seekers could ultimately put border towns at risk of becoming an epicenter for the coronavirus pandemic.
“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,” he added.
Although the focus has been on minor children, The Washington Post reports that Customs and Border Protection arrested 78,000 individuals trying to cross the border illegally in January, the most for that month in a decade.
“The number of apprehensions has been growing since Biden took office, according to the latest U.S. Customs and Border Protection statistics, and rose 6 percent between December and January, a period that typically brings a holiday lull,” the outlet added.
Part of that problem does refer back to the Trump administration’s “remain in Mexico” policy. While President Joe Biden suspended the policy for new asylum seekers, around 70,000 individuals are still being held in camps south of the United States-Mexico border, and while the Biden administration has pledged to process around 25,000 of those claims, the system is moving slowly.
The Biden administration has addressed that issue only loosely, with Press Secretary Jen Psaki telling reporters last week that the Biden administration is looking to reformat the immigration system and “put in place a humane, comprehensive process for processing individuals.”
Mayorkas said something similar Tuesday morning.
“Our goal is a safe, legal and orderly immigration system that is based on our bedrock priorities: to keep our borders secure, address the plight of children as the law requires, and enable families to be together,” he told GMA.