Homeland Security Chief Insists “Border Is Closed,” but Children Won’t Be Expelled

Homeland Security Chief Insists “Border Is Closed,” but Children Won’t Be Expelled

Originally Published in Slate

Daniel Politi - March 21, 2021

Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas speaks during the daily press briefing at the White House on March 1, 2021 in Washington, D.C.
Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas speaks during the daily press briefing at the White House on March 1, 2021 in Washington, D.C. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas had a simple message for people who are thinking of migrating to the United States through the southern border: Don’t do it. “The message is quite clear, do not come. The border is closed, the border is secure,” Mayorkas said on ABC’s This Week. But even as the United States is determined to keep on expelling families and adults who do try to cross into the country, unaccompanied minors are a different story. “We will not expel into the Mexican desert, for example, three orphan children,” Mayorkas said on NBC’s Meet the Press.

The “message has been straightforward and simple,” Mayorkas added, noting that the decision to treat unaccompanied minors with a different strategy has to do with values. “We are expelling families. We are expelling single adults. And we’ve made a decision that we will not expel young, vulnerable children,” he said. “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 and our principles as a nation.”

The Homeland Security secretary blamed Trump’s administration for the situation that the country finds itself in now, saying that it “dismantled the orderly, humane and efficient way” o handling children who were seeking to migrate to the United States. “We are rebuilding those orderly and safe processes as quickly as possible,” he said. In the meantime though, children won’t be expelled because “that’s not who we are.”

Mayorkas appeared in the Sunday talk shows amid news that the government was housing some 15,500 unaccompanied migrant minors, including more than 5,000 who are in Border Patrol facilities. Those stations are “no place for a child,” Mayorkas said, noting how the administration is working on setting up new facilities to temporarily house unaccompanied minors. Republicans are seizing on the issue and accusing the Biden administration of encouraging migrants to try to cross the border. Sen. Tom Cotton, for example, criticized Mayorkas directly for defending the policy of not expelling minors. “He’s basically saying the United States will not secure our border and that is a big welcome sign to migrants from across the world,” Cotton said on Fox News Sunday.

The Washington Post takes a look at the current situation at the border, which the administration is refusing to call a crisis, and notes that many had warned there would be a sharp increase of migrants and the White House did not adequately prepare. Now the Biden administration “is scrambling to control the biggest surge in 20 years,” notes the Post.

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