Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Sunday defended the Biden administration’s handling of a surge of migrants that have overwhelmed the nation’s immigration system, while also declaring that the U.S.-Mexico border “is closed” and only unaccompanied minors will be allowed in.
“The message is quite clear: Do not come. The border is closed, the border is secure,” Mayorkas said on ABC’s “This Week.” “We are rebuilding the system as we address the needs of vulnerable children who arrive at our borders.”
Mayorkas defended the decision to allow unaccompanied minors in a separate interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press,” saying it would be inhumane to turn them away into the Mexican dessert.
WATCH AGAIN: DHS Sec. Mayorkas tells @chucktodd the "border is closed." #MTP@SecMayorkas: "We are expelling families, we are expelling single adults and we have made a decision that we will not expel young, vulnerable children." pic.twitter.com/D2O9NiY1tQ
— Meet the Press (@MeetThePress) March 21, 2021
Mayorkas’ message follows U.S. border agents apprehending more than 100,000 migrants last month, 28 percent more than the previous month. The last time U.S. Customs and Border Protection reported such figures was in the spring of 2019, according to the CBP’s online figures.
Despite the surge, and immigration officials halting the acceptance of adults and families, the Biden administration has refused to label the current situation a “crisis,” a term that Mayorkas again on Sunday deflected.
“I will not use language that is not applicable,” he said on MSNBC’s “The Sunday Show.” “We have dealt with surges in migration at the border before. We have a plan, we are executing our plan, we will succeed. We know what to do, we are doing it, and that is the fact of the matter.”
Mayorkas blamed the previous Trump administration for both the rise in cases and for the immigration system’s inability to handle it all.
picture alliance via Getty Images A child walks through tents at a migrant camp on the grounds of the National Institute for Migration near the “El Chaparral” border crossing in Tijuana, Mexico, on March 17.
He argued that people have been increasingly forced to flee their countries and seek refuge in the U.S. because the Trump administration cut off humanitarian aid to their countries, making an already dire situation worse. Mayorkas also accused the previous administration of dismantling the immigration system amid a pandemic.
“We are rebuilding those orderly systems both in Mexico, in close partnerships with the Mexican government, and in the countries of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador,” he said in his interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
Career immigration officials had warned of a potential migrant surge after the November presidential election and news that Trump’s hardline immigration policies were being reversed, the Associated Press reported.
“They see him as the migrant president,” Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said of President Joe Biden following a virtual meeting with his U.S. counterpart on March 1. “And so many feel they’re going to reach the United States.”
Republicans on Sunday accused the Biden administration of actually encouraging the rush of migrants, particularly by allowing refuge to unaccompanied minors.
“Encouraging these kids to come is not a humane thing,” Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), the leading Republican on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “It’s certainly overwhelming our system.”
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) on Sunday shared a similar sentiment.
“The border is wide open,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.” “He’s basically saying that the U.S. will not secure our border and that is a big welcome sign to migrants from across the world.”