Joe Biden’s Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas sent a clear message to migrants on Sunday: The U.S. border is closed.
‘Our message has been straightforward and simple, and it’s true – The border is closed. We are expelling families. We are expelling single adults,’ Mayorkas told NBC’s ‘Meet the Press’ on Sunday morning.
‘I think we are executing on our plans and, quite frankly, when we are finished doing so, the American public will look back on this and say we secured our border and we upheld our values and our principles as a nation,’ he added.
Mayorkas said that the administration, however, is committed to not turning away unaccompanied minors who arrive at the U.S. border.
‘We’ve made a decision that we will not expel young, vulnerable children,’ Mayorkas told NBC host Chuck Todd.
Newly-confirmed Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said Sunday: ‘The border is closed’
He said any adults or families arriving at the border would be expelled amid a growing immigration crisis
His comments come as the number of unaccompanied migrant children in U.S. custody has surpassed 15,000 as of Saturday.
‘Are you concerned that the word will go out, and you’ll get unaccompanied minors from all over the world trying to come to our southern border?’ Todd asked the DHS head.
‘We are safely processing the children who do come to our border,’ Mayorkas said, warning: ‘We strongly urge, and the message is clear, not to do so now. I cannot overstate the perils of the journey that they take.’
‘Regrettably, I am all too aware of the tragedies that have occurred and continued to occur along that journey,’ he said of children who arrive – or attempt to arrive – at the border alone.
Mayorkas did the rounds Sunday morning, appearing on five different shows to do damage control on the growing southern border crisis – even as the administration refuses to call the situation a ‘crisis.’
Biden promised during his candidacy that all those seeking asylum in the U.S. would be granted, which led to a surge of caravans heading from Central American to the U.S.-Mexico border.
But Mayorkas continued to deflect blame for the immigration crisis on former President Donald Trump.
‘Please remember something – that President Trump dismantled the orderly, humane and efficient way of allowing children to make their claims under United States law in their home countries,’ he said.
Customs and Border Protection is now considering a plan to release migrants who crossed the border illegally without first giving them a court date to reappear.
A senior CBP source told Fox News that Border Patrol agents in the Rio Grande Valley Sector are considering releasing migrants into the United States without an official Notice to Appear, a process that normally takes hours for each individual or family.
The move means migrants who crossed the border illegally would be released from custody into the United States – and it would place the responsibility of returning for an asylum hearing on the migrants themselves, through Immigration and Customs Enforcement or legal assistance, Fox News reported.
As this information came to light and the press continued to be blocked from gaining access to detention facilities, reports emerged that Border Patrol agents were issued a gag order on what they can share with the media.
Mayorkas claims these reports are not rooted in reality.
‘Right now, we have no access to or photos of the conditions in the facilities. There have been no ride-alongs with agents. All inquiries are routed through Washington. There have been strict controls on sharing data. Local Border Patrol folks feel like they can’t even talk to our folks down there. Is there a gag order?’ Todd pressed on Sunday.
He insisted: ‘There is not.’
‘That is unequivocally false,’ Mayorkas added. ‘And let’s be clear here – We are in the midst of a pandemic. We are, because of the extraordinary leadership of the president, climbing out of it more rapidly than ever before. But we are still in the midst of the pandemic. There is CDC controls in place. And Border Patrol agents are focused on operations, on securing the border, on addressing the needs of vulnerable children. We are not focused on ride-alongs right now.’
Previously, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said there would be organized trips for press to gain access to detention facilities. Later, she walked back on those comments, but promised photos to show conditions.
Then on Thursday, Psaki said the White House would not be releasing to the media photos that advisors shared with President Joe Biden to brief him on conditions on facilities housing childhood migrants on the border.
Psaki had kept open the idea of sharing them at a press briefing a day earlier after she revealed that advisors to Biden who had been to the border spoke to him ‘with photos’ about the facilities where unaccompanied children were being housed.
The possible change in immigration procedure, detailed by a CBP agent to Fox, comes as asylum seekers are flooding to the southern border: CBP apprehended nearly 100,000 migrants at the border in February, compared to just 16,182 in April 2020 when migration slowed drastically in the wake of the coronavirus, according to Pew data.
Migrants are seen in custody at a U.S. Customs and Border Protection processing area under the Anzalduas International Bridge on Friday in Texas
Linda, an asylum-seeking migrant from Honduras, awakes at sunrise next to others who took refuge near a baseball field after crossing the Rio Grande river into the United States
Migrants are seen in custody at a U.S. Customs and Border Protection processing area under the Anzalduas International Bridge on Friday
An American Red Cross worker sits in a chair as he watches over migrant children and teenagers from the southern border of the United States at a temporary holding facility
‘[It has] become so dire that [Border Patrol] has no choice but to release people nearly immediately after apprehension because there is no space to hold people even to do necessary NTA paperwork,’ the source told Fox News.
This process of skipping the scheduling paperwork would not apply to unaccompanied migrant children if it goes into effect, according to the outlet.
Migrants that are released from Border Patrol custody in the Rio Grande Valley Sector are normally transition to a housing facility, the Catholic Humanitarian Respite Center.
The center’s Sister Norma Pimentel told Fox News that she is ‘coordinating her response’ to news that the migrants might face a quicker release from Border Patrol custody.
The Biden administration is also considering flying migrants to states near the Canadian border for processing, The Washington Post reported on Friday.
President Joe Biden is now disappointed in his officials for not being able to adequately shelter and process the massive increase of migrants at the southern border, CNN reported.
A senior administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Biden thinks his officials are not moving fast enough in setting up better conditions for migrants stuck in jail-like facilities for longer than the 72 hours allowed by law.
‘He was disappointed that we hadn’t gotten answers from other agencies faster or that [the facilities] wouldn’t be ready for children faster,’ the official said.
‘He made it pretty clear that there were times when he didn’t think we were moving fast enough.’
Biden officials claim Trump officials did not fully cooperate with his transition team, hindering their ability get a realistic view of potential migration, and that Trump deconstructed the immigration and asylum system – which they then inherited.
Biden officials are reportedly blaming the Trump administration for the border crisis as Republicans attack the president for undoing Trump’s immigration policies
A crew works on constructing a tall chain link fence that will surround a facility for migrant children and teenagers on Saturday
A migrant woman cleans the face of a child at a respite center hosted by a humanitarian group after they were released from U.S. Customs and Border Protection custody on Saturday
One official told CNN that Trump prevented Biden’s team from getting ‘under the hood in the time frame that other administrations would have been able to.’
‘Were we prepared? Yes,’ the official said.
‘Everyone wants to be like ‘crisis, crisis, crisis, crisis’ – but it’s like, you know what, actually, things are going really well. Yes, we brought in FEMA, but you know what? That was the responsible thing to do.’
Julie Chavez Rodriguez, the director of the White House’s office of intergovernmental affairs, told CNN that the Biden administration knew it was inheriting ‘an absolute mess.’
‘As we were coming into the administration, we knew we were inheriting an absolute mess from the previous administration,’ she said.
‘There were aspects of our legal immigration system that had been gutted and a department that lacked the personnel to administer our laws.’
Rogelio Pop, 26, left, a migrant from Guatemala, hugs his son Andy Pop, 5, at a respite center hosted by a humanitarian group after they were released from U.S. Customs and Border Protection custody on Saturday
A donated campaign flag for U.S. President Joe Biden flies over tents at a makeshift camp of migrants at the border port of entry leading to the United States on Wednesday
Migrants carry children while in custody at a U.S. Customs and Border Protection processing area under the Anzalduas International Bridge on Friday
Another administration official said: ‘When we came into office, like, it was a disaster. I mean, really. The staffing wasn’t in place, the structures weren’t in place.’
Republicans have argued that the border crisis is Biden’s own doing after the president issued sweeping executive actions in his first week in office that undid Trump’s immigration policies.
The Democrat controlled Congress has also worked to pass legislation to address immigration.
‘The gulf between what the Trump administration did in enforced cruelty and where the Biden administration wanted to be was so great that I don’t really think there was a clearer example that needed to be made in how the government and the administration was going to change,’ one senior administration official said.
The official added: ‘The previous administration had so radically changed what we did on migration that, I think, the President felt very strongly that we had to act really quickly and really decisively to demonstrate that it wasn’t going to be the same.’
Last month, Trump’s immigration architect Stephen Miller blasted an immigration plan from Biden as the ‘most radical’ bill ever written.
Miller, a former White House adviser, spoke for nearly five minutes lambasting the bill while appearing in an interview with Fox News’ Laura Ingraham.
Blanca Lopez Carranza, center, a migrant from El Salvador, talks with Jeydy Oseguera, right, and her son, Justin Melendez Oseguera, 8, after the large group of deportees were pushed by Mexican authorities off an area they had been staying after their expulsion from the U.S.
A U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer, right, instructs a migrant to walk toward the McAllen-Hidalgo International Bridge while deporting a group of migrants to Mexico on Saturday
‘It is the most radical immigration bill ever written, ever drafted, ever submitted in the history of this country. It is breathtaking,’ Miller said.
Miller said that ‘the most insane thing’ in the bill is that it would order Secretary of State Antony Blinken to develop an application process to allow illegal aliens deported by the Trump administration to reapply for citizenship.
‘In the bill, it says anyone who has lived in the country for at least three years and was deported by Donald Trump can reapply,’ he said.
‘And, it orders the Secretary of State to develop a process to mail those applications out to the 200 countries in the world to where illegal aliens are deported.’
Miller called the bill a ‘full-scale attack on the very idea of nationhood.’
‘If you were trying to write a bill to eliminate the concept of having a nation, this is the bill you would write,’ he said.
Hennessy, a four year old asylum-seeking migrant girl from Honduras, awakes at sunrise next to others who took refuge near a baseball field after crossing the Rio Grande river into the United States from Mexico on rafts, in La Joya, Texas on Friday
On Saturday, the U.S. government was housing roughly 15,500 unaccompanied migrant minors, CBS News reported.
That number includes 5,000 teenagers and children being housed in Border Patrol facilities not designed for long-term custody beyond the 72 hours they are legally allowed to be held.
Under existing law, the government already cannot keep migrant children in holding facilities for more than 72 hours, the outlet reported. Migrant children must be transferred to a shelter or released.
The 1997 Flores v. Reno court agreement set nationwide policy that requires the government to release children from immigration detention without unnecessary delay to their adult relatives and while receiving a certain quality of life, CNN reported.
The government also cannot detain kids in any facility for more than 20 days, under the Flores agreement.
Government records reviewed by CBS News show that unaccompanied children are spending an average of 136 hours in CBP custody.
More than 5,000 unaccompanied minors were being held in a CBP tent as of Saturday morning, according to the outlet.
The Department of Health and Human Services was also housing nearly 10,500 unaccompanied children in emergency housing facilities and shelters, department spokesperson Mark Weber told CBS News on Saturday.