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Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said Sunday despite reports that thousands of migrants continue to cross illegally into the U.S. and are overwhelming immigration officials, “the border is closed.”
In an interview with NBC News’ Chuck Todd, Mayorkas defended the Biden administration’s handling of the migrant influx and suggested that most illegal aliens were being turned away.
Nevertheless, the DHS chief did say that while families and illegal alien adults are being turned away unaccompanied minors are not.
“We will not expel into the Mexican desert, for example, three orphan children,” Mayorkas told Todd on “Meet the Press,” though he did say they should not come.
“We are safely processing the children who do come to our border,” he said. “We strongly urge, and the message is clear, not to do so now. I cannot overstate the perils of the journey that they take.”
Mayorkas went on to blame former President Donald Trump, claiming he “dismantled the orderly, humane and efficient way of allowing children to make their claims under United States law in their own country.”
“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 fact, the previous administration had secured agreements with the three Central American countries in order to limit the number of asylum claims made at the U.S. border. Under the Asylum Cooperative Agreements, asylum seekers were required to apply in their home countries in order to promote safety, security, DHS said at the time.
But in early February President Joe Biden suspended them via executive order.
“To be clear, these actions do not mean that the U.S. border is open,” Secretary of State Tony Blinken said in a statement at the time. “While we are committed to expanding legal pathways for protection and opportunity here and in the region, the United States is a country with borders and laws that must be enforced.”
Also, the Trump administration’s “Remain in Mexico” policy, enacted in December 2018, required asylum seekers to wait out their claims south of the border. The policy did not apply to Mexican nationals or children. But it, too, was suspended by Biden.
Mayorkas’ comments come as immigration authorities face a deluge of migrants presenting as asylum seekers at the southern border. While adults and families are reportedly being sent away, thousands of children are not.
That said, Immigration and Customs Enforcement is spending $86 million to contract with hotels along the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas to house migrant families and children because detention facilities are maxed out.
According to CBS News, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials say there are at least 15,500 migrant children currently in custody at various facilities throughout southern Texas. Many of them have been held far longer than the 72-hour limit imposed by u.S. law, giving rise to concerns that, despite Mayorkas’ denials, the administration is struggling to deal adequately with the influx.
The White House is also pressing Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s administration to do more to help staunch the flow of migrants from Central America.
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