DHS chief takes lead in Biden administration’s border response defense
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas emerged as the Biden administration’s chief defender on immigration policy on the Sunday morning political news shows, appearing on four different networks to counter GOP attacks on the White House.
Speaking on Fox, NBC, ABC and CNN, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) chief held firm to the administration’s assertion that the southern U.S. border remains “closed,” while stressing that the U.S. would not deport unaccompanied minors and instead seek housing for them while they apply for asylum.
“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 encouraging children not to come. Now is not the time to come. Do not come, the journey is dangerous. We are building safe, orderly and humane ways to address the needs of vulnerable children. Do not come,” he continued.
His comments come amid a surge of migrants at the southern border, including thousands of unaccompanied minors. DHS has said migrant border crossings are on pace to reach their highest level in two decades.
On NBC’s “Meet The Press,” Mayorkas explained that children would be treated fairly under U.S. law while adding that the U.S. was working with Central American countries to increase their own asylum capacity.
“I cannot overstate the perils of the journey that [unaccompanied minors] take. And regrettably, I am all too aware of the tragedies that have occurred and continue to occur along that journey,” he said.
“But in the meantime, and in parallel, we are rebuilding those orderly systems, both in Mexico with — in close partnership with the Mexican government — and in the countries of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, so that they, in fact, do not need to take that dangerous journey,” Mayorkas added.
Delays in transferring minors to permanent shelters overseen by Health and Human Services, Mayorkas argued, were the result of the Trump administration’s “dismantling” of the asylum system.
“The entire system was dismantled by the prior administration. There was a system in place in both Republican and Democratic administrations, that was torn down during the Trump administration, and that is why the challenge is more acute than it ever has been before,” he said on CNN.
The DHS secretary also faced questions on several networks about press access to the facilities, particularly the temporary shelters operated by Customs and Border Protection where minors are being held.
In an interview on Fox, he added that the administration was working on “providing footage” to news networks, and when pressed further contended that “providing access” was possible.
“We’re working on providing access so that individuals can see what conditions inside a Border Patrol facility are like,” he said, while not elaborating further.
On NBC, Mayorkas fought back against claims that Border Patrol agents were under a “gag order,” calling those claims “unequivocally false,” and blamed a lack of press access on the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and related concerns.
“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,” he argued.
“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,” he added.
His comments were derided by Republicans including Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), who argued in response to Mayorkas’s comments on Fox that the border was not closed and that the secretary was “basically saying the United States will not secure our border and that is a big welcome sign to migrants from across the world.”
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