Homeland Security Secretary Says ‘Border Is Closed’ but U.S. Won’t Expel ‘Vulnerable Children’

Alejandro Mayorkas, nominee to be Secretary of Homeland Security, testifies during a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., January 19, 2021. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Sunday underscored the Biden administration’s messaging to migrants that the southern border is closed, though he noted that it would not expel “vulnerable children.”

Mayorkas’s comments came in response to a question by Chuck Todd on NBC’s Meet the Press regarding whether the administration had created a “market efficiency” where migrants have decided that their children have the potential to enter the U.S. if they don’t accompany them.

“Our message has been straightforward and simple and it’s true: The border is closed,” Mayorkas said. “We are expelling families, we are expelling single adults and we’ve made a decision that we will not expel young vulnerable children.”

“I think we are executing on our plans and quite frankly when we are finished doing so the American public will look back on this and say we secured our border and we upheld our values,” he added.

Mayorkas said that though the administration has warned migrants against seeking entry to the U.S. that border officials “will not expel into the Mexican desert, for example, three orphan children.”

“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.”

He argued that the Trump administration had caused a number of the problems currently affecting the border by dismantling “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.

Mayorkas’ comments come as the administration struggles with a rapidly deteriorating situation at the border: as of Saturday, the Border Patrol had 5,049 unaccompanied children in its custody, according to NBC News.

On Tuesday, Mayorkas called the situation at the border “difficult” and noted that the U.S. is “on pace to encounter more individuals on the southwest border than we have in the last 20 years.”

While the statement said “poverty, high levels of violence and corruption in Mexico and the Northern Triangle countries” are to blame for the influx, and have “propelled migration to our southwest border for years,” Republicans have said it is Biden who is at fault for the surge, after he loosened immigration restrictions.

Biden rescinded the Trump-era Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) and reinstated “catch and release.” Experts say Biden’s plan to create a pathway to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants has served as an incentive for migrants to attempt to cross the border.

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