Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Sunday defended the Biden administration’s decision to not expel children arriving in the U.S. amid a migrant surge along the southern border, arguing "that’s not who we are."
In an interview on NBC’s "Meet the Press," Mayorkas said "the border is closed" and that the U.S. was expelling families and adults but will not turn back "young, vulnerable children." He said the Biden administration was working to develop new policies to address the problem with Mexico and Central American countries that are the source of the asylum seekers. He blamed former President Donald Trump for having "dismantled the orderly, humane and efficient way" of dealing with the migrant children.
"We are rebuilding those orderly and safe processes as quickly as possible," he said. "But in the meantime, we will not expel into the Mexican desert, for example, three orphan children whom I saw over the last two weeks. We just won’t do that. That’s not who we are."
The rapid increase in migrants seeking to enter the U.S., which the Biden administration refuses to call a "crisis," has become an urgent challenge for the president just two months into his term. In February, U.S. border agents apprehended more than 100,000 migrants, in what was a 28 percent increase from the previous month.
In addition to criticism that their policies are enabling the surge, administration officials are also facing questions for not providing media access to border facilities so the public can get a firsthand look at the situation. Mayorkas said "we’re working on that" but made clear it wasn’t a top priority. He said the administration was dealing with a pandemic and "not focused on ride-alongs right now."
"Meet the Press" host Chuck Todd asked Mayorkas if there was a "gag order" obstructing media access, which Mayorkas denied.
"We are focused on our operations, in removing children from those crowded Border Patrol stations to the Health and Human Services facilities that can best shelter them," he said. "And we are also working on providing access so the American public can in a safe way, without jeopardizing our operations, see what is going on. We’re working on that."
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