DHS denies press access to Mayorkas tour of southern border facilities

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas’s visit to the southern border on Friday to assess the surge of child migrants will be closed to the press, fueling criticism of the Biden administration that it is not being transparent about conditions on the ground.

Mayorkas and a group of bipartisan senators will travel to El Paso, Texas, to view Customs and Border Protection (CBP) operations and to receive a briefing on how unaccompanied minors are being processed, transferred and sheltered.

In a statement, the Department of Homeland Security said the visit would be closed to the press due to “privacy and COVID-19 precautions.”

The federal government is in custody of 14,000 young migrants, many of whom made the dangerous journey from Central America to the U.S. seeking asylum.

The Biden administration is turning away adult migrants, but the decision to allow unaccompanied minors to stay in the country as their immigration status is processed has created a strain on the system and provoked worries about the well-being of children in U.S. custody.

Thousands of children are being kept in CBP cells meant for adults for days longer than is legally allowed. Mayorkas has called the facilities “no place for a child.”

The White House has faced growing frustration from journalists and refugee advocates seeking access to the CBP facilities in order to assess the living conditions.

CBP has stopped offering ride-alongs for reporters, which were commonplace for the first three years of the Trump administration, citing health concerns around the coronavirus pandemic.

Biden has been briefed on the conditions at the border and has viewed pictures of the CBP facilities, but the White House has declined to make those photos public.

Pictures of children who were separated from their parents being kept in cramped quarters at CBP facilities under former President Trump provoked outrage and demands for reform.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said this week the administration would make members of the envoy that briefed Biden available to the press at some point. She said the White House would consider ways to allow for “a pool of media to be able to have your own videos or get your own footage of these facilities.”

“We remain committed to transparency and are considering potential options and we hope to have an update soon,” Psaki said.

Tags Alejandro Mayorkas border surge Donald Trump Immigration Jen Psaki Migrant children migrants southern border

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