The number of immigrants attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border illegally will likely reach the highest rate in two decades, according to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas this week.
“We are on pace to encounter more individuals on the southwest border than we have in the last 20 years,” Mayorkas said in a statement Monday, blaming the surge in large part on claims of Mexico’s dwindling cooperation, COVID-19 and former President Donald Trump’s administration.
Mayorkas said poverty, high levels of violence and corruption in Mexico and Northern Triangle countries have led to the “difficult” situation at the border, adding that the Trump administration “completely dismantled the asylum system.”
Mayorkas did not mention the changes President Joe Biden made in his first days in office to the former Trump administration’s immigration policies, including ending the emergency declaration at the southern border and halting construction of the border wall.
In the first week of March, a large group of migrants was seen at the U.S.-Mexico border south of California on wearing T-shirts that featured President Joe Biden’s campaign logo along with the words, “PLEASE LET US IN!”
Photographs of the group were taken on the Mexican side near the San Ysidro crossing location in Tijuana, Baja California state as they kneeled while urging Biden to continue easing immigration policies and allow more immigrants to enter the United States.
According to Mayorkas, most of the adult migrants are being expelled, but unaccompanied children are allowed to stay.
Children encountered at the border are usually held in Customs and Border Patrol facilities, but on Monday the Biden administration revealed plans to house 3,000 illegal immigrant teenagers in a convention center in downtown Dallas, Texas. The teens could be held for up to 90 days beginning this week, The Associated Press reported.
Last week, over 3,200 migrant children were being housed in facilities “akin to jails”, with more than 1,400 being held beyond the 72-hour legal limit, according to documents obtained by the New York Times.
“The Border Patrol facilities have become crowded with children and the 72-hour timeframe for the transfer of children from the Border Patrol to HHS is not always met,” Mayorkas statement Monday read. “HHS has not had the capacity to intake the number of unaccompanied children we have been encountering.”
He continued, “We are creating joint processing centers so that children can be placed in HHS care immediately after Border Patrol encounters them. We are also identifying and equipping additional facilities for HHS to shelter unaccompanied children until they are placed with family or sponsors. These are short-term solutions to address the surge of unaccompanied children.”
Three weeks after opening in February, the Donna Center in the Rio Grande Valley was already at 729 percent capacity, with children reportedly being forced to sleep on the floor and permitted to shower just once a week, the Daily Mail reported.
Also in February, over 100,000 migrants were encountered at the border, jumping 30 percent from January and almost tripling the number from the same period in 2020.
“The situation we are currently facing at the southwest border is a difficult one. We are tackling it. We are keeping our borders secure, enforcing our laws and staying true to our values and principles,” Mayorkas stated. “We can do so because of the incredible talent and unwavering dedication of our workforce.”