The Biden administration faces increasing pressure from a surge in unaccompanied migrant children crossing into the U.S., with the number of asylum seekers at a high of 20 years that is putting federal facilities and shelters under immense pressure.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas took the political talk show circuit Sunday to press the administration’s case that it is doing everything it can. He went on to refer to the problem as a “challenge” rather than a “crisis,” attempting to directly blame the former White House incumbent, Donald Trump.
“It’s taking time and it’s difficult because the whole system was dismantled by the previous administration,” Mayorkas told CNN’s State of the Union. “There was a system in place that was brought down by the Trump administration.”
On ABC’s This Week program, Mayorkas highlighted the toughest aspects of Joe Biden’s border policy, emphasizing that the administration was still expelling families and single adults under a regulation known as Title 42. He insisted that, in large part Central American migrants arriving in increasing numbers were being given a clear message: “Don’t come. The border is closed. The border is safe. “
But prominent Republicans have seized the border difficulties as an opportunity to attack Biden for being soft on immigration.
“This is a crisis,” said Mitch McConnell, the Senate’s top Republican. “I don’t care what the administration wants to call it, it’s a crisis.”
Tom Cotton, a senator from Arkansas and a fervent Trump loyalist, criticized the secretary’s position as “nonsense.”
In an interview with Fox News Sunday, Cotton characterized the Biden administration’s stance as “basically saying that the United States will not secure the border, and that is a huge welcome sign for migrants from around the world. [saying] the border is wide open ”.
He continued to make lurid allegations, backed up without evidence, that the focus on unaccompanied children at the border allowed criminals who smuggled fentanyl and other drugs, as well as people on “terrorist watch lists,” to enter the United States without be detected.
Political tension over border issues has been building for two months. In one of his first acts as president, Biden scrapped Trump’s hardline policy of sending unaccompanied children seeking asylum back to Mexico.
Under Biden’s guidelines, unaccompanied minors were exempted from Title 42 rules and protected from removal. That was seen in line with the president’s promise of a “fair, safe and orderly” immigration system.
On Sunday, Mayorkas said the new approach addresses the humanitarian needs of migrant children “in a way that reflects our values and principles as a country.” But in recent weeks, the number of minors seeking asylum has grown so rapidly that it has outstripped the ability to process children under immigration laws.
More than 5,000 unaccompanied migrant children are detained at Border Protection and Customs (CBP) facilities in Texas and Arizona. As a backlog of cases has accumulated, more than 500 have been in custody for more than 10 days, well beyond the 72 hours allowed under immigration law.
There have been reports of overcrowding and harsh conditions at federal facilities in Texas. the Associated Press reported that immigration attorneys said some children were sleeping on the floor after the bedding ran out.
The government has tried to move as many children as possible to shelters run by the US Office of Refugees, but they have in turn become stressed. There are now more than 9,500 children in shelters and short-term housing along the border. Non-governmental groups working with migrants and refugees have been forced to fight to cope with the sudden demand for refuge.
As the administration struggles to control events, it is also coming under fire from Republicans and the media for refusing to allow journalists to enter the besieged CBP facility where children are being held. On Friday, Mayorkas visited El Paso in Texas with a bipartisan delegation from Congress. Reporters were not allowed to follow them.
Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz called the move “outrageous and unacceptable.” in a cheepHe said: “There is no press. No cameras. What is Biden hiding?
Questioned by Fox News Sunday about the apparent lack of responsibility, despite Biden’s promise to bring “Trust and transparency” Returning to public affairs, Mayorkas said the administration was “working to provide access” to border patrol stations.
But he added: “First things first: we are focused on operations and the execution of our plans.”
While political tension is mounting at the border, steps are being taken in Washington to try to find a longer-term solution to the age-old immigration conundrum. Last week, the House of Representatives passed a bill that would give “dreamers,” undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children, a path to citizenship.
The legislation has an uncertain future in the Senate, given its 50-50 split and the need to reach 60 votes to pass most of the important laws.
Dick Durbin, a Democratic senator from Illinois who introduced a similar Dream Act to the Senate five times in the past 20 years, told CNN that he thought he was close to getting the necessary 60 votes. He also condemned the current debate over whether there was a “crisis” or a “challenge” at the border.
“We need to address our immigration laws in this country that are violated,” he said. “What you see at the border is proof of that, but there is much more.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism