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DHS says migrant border crossings on pace to reach highest level in two decades

DHS says migrant border crossings on pace to reach highest level in two decades
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The Department of Homeland Security said Tuesday that the number of attempted crossings at the U.S. southern border is expected to reach its highest level in two decades. 

The statement coincided with an effort by Biden administration officials to defend the White House's immigration policies and discourage migrants from attempting to cross into the United States amid a surge of immigrant children at the border.

“We are on pace to encounter more individuals on the southwest border than we have in the last 20 years,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro MayorkasAlejandro MayorkasHillicon Valley: Broadband companies funded fake net neutrality comments, investigation finds | Twitter rolls out tip feature | Google to adopt 'hybrid work week' America's Jewish communities are under attack — Here are 3 things Congress can do Biden administration, Congress unite in effort to tackle ransomware attacks MORE said in a statement Tuesday morning.

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“We are expelling most single adults and families. We are not expelling unaccompanied children. We are securing our border, executing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) public health authority to safeguard the American public and the migrants themselves, and protecting the children. We have more work to do,” Mayorkas said.

Mayorkas stressed that the situation is difficult and will take time to resolve, but he said the administration’s ultimate 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.”

Mayorkas also appeared on “Good Morning America” Tuesday and defended the administration’s efforts to address the surge of migrants by recruiting new facilities to house them and working with state and local officials.

“We are also and critically sending an important message that now is not the time to come to the border,” Mayorkas said. “Give us the time to rebuild the system that was entirely dismantled in the prior administration and we have in fact begun to rebuild that system.” 

The administration’s message, however, does not appear to be getting through amid a continued surge of migrant crossings that has opened up President Biden to new attacks from Republicans. 

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Appearing on CNN Tuesday, Ambassador Roberta Jacobson, White House coordinator for the southern border, said that Biden’s policy is a “more humane system but it is not open borders.” She also acknowledged that the administration’s message has faced difficulty in getting out to those considering attempts to cross into the United States. 

“We are doing everything we can and that includes Spanish language radio, social media, making sure that we convey the message that the border is not open, that the majority of people will be returned, and that it is not ever a good idea to come in this irregular fashion,” Jacobson said. “But the smugglers' message is very pervasive, they prey on people and they prey on their hope and they tell them things that simply aren’t true. But we are fighting back.” 

Jacobson also defended the administration’s efforts, saying that Biden has only been in office for a few weeks and that officials are moving quickly to “restore humanity to our immigration policy.” 

Mayorkas over the weekend directed the Federal Emergency Management Agency to over the next 90 days support the administration’s effort to shelter and transfer unaccompanied immigrant children from Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) custody and then with a family member or sponsor as their case is adjudicated. 

HHS is working to open additional facilities to accommodate the increase in migrant children so that they can be transferred out of CBP custody. The government is expected to use a Dallas convention center to house up to 3,000 migrant teenage boys, The Associated Press reported on Tuesday