Biden administration responds to critical on the treatment of large numbers of migrant children arriving at the southern border of the United States, saying he was working to rebuild an asylum system dismantled by former President Donald Trump.
In an interview with ABC News This Week on Sunday, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas admitted the influx of unaccompanied children was a challenge.
“Why is it particularly difficult and difficult now? Because the whole system under US law that was in place… was dismantled in its entirety by the Trump administration, ”Mayorkas said.
“So we are rebuilding the system by responding to the needs of vulnerable children who arrive at our borders.”
In a separate interview with CNN on Sunday, Mayorkas said the United States plans to open new facilities to house unaccompanied minors who have entered the country in recent weeks. He did not provide an exact timeline or further details.
President Joe Biden, who took office in January, has promised to reverse some of his predecessor’s anti-immigration policies, including the lifting of the so-called “Muslim ban” and other drastic measures that led to family separation.
But officials in the Biden administration mentionned more immigrants arrive at the US-Mexico border last week than in the past 20 years.
The situation drew criticism from Republicans, who blame Biden’s immigration policies for the increase in arrivals, as well as progressive lawmakers and immigration advocates, who say the United States must do more to protect vulnerable migrants and give them real way to asylum.
CBS News reported on Saturday that the US government was detaining around 15,500 unaccompanied migrant children, including 5,000 who had been stranded in border facilities unsuitable for long-term detention.
“According to government records, unaccompanied children spend an average of 136 hours in CBP custody, well beyond the 72-hour limit under US law,” CBS said.
The Biden administration this month ordered the federal agency that normally deals with natural disasters such as floods and hurricanes to help care for unaccompanied minors.
The Pew Research Center said U.S. officials met 18,945 family members and 9,297 unaccompanied children in February, an increase of 168% and 63% respectively from the previous month.
But the detention of migrant children has raised particular concerns from lawyers and other migrant advocates, some of whom have been able to assess conditions in detention centers.
Last week, the Associated Press news agency reported that U.S. officials had suspended new arrivals at an oilfield workers camp in the U.S. state of Texas that had been converted to accommodate migrant teenagers.
Questions have been raised about safety at the site, after more than 10% of children detained there tested positive for COVID-19 and at least one child was hospitalized, the agency said. hurry.
At another facility, some children slept on the floor while others did not have access to a shower for five days, AP reported.
On Friday, a bipartisan group of US senators accompanied Mayorkas on a visit to facilities in Texas housing unaccompanied migrant children.
“I just left the border processing facility. Hundreds of children crammed into large open rooms. In a corner, I fought back my tears as a 13 year old girl sobbed [sic] explaining uncontrollably through a translator how terrified she was to have been separated from her grandmother and without her parents, ”Democratic Senator Chris Murphy tweeted.
Murphy said that while children are no longer separated from their parents at the border and can stay in the United States and apply for asylum, parents who are not their parents cannot stay with them in the United States.
The Biden administration left in place a Trump-era rule, known as Title 42, that allows U.S. authorities to quickly deport immigrants who arrive at the U.S. border seeking asylum.
I just left the border processing facility. Hundreds of children crammed into large open rooms. In one corner, I fought back my tears as a 13-year-old girl sobbed uncontrollably explaining through a translator how terrified she was to have been separated from her grandmother and without her parents.
– Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) March 19, 2021
But Murphy said the Biden administration was moving as quickly as possible to respond.
Mayorkas said on Sunday that the message to potential asylum seekers was clear: “Don’t come”.
“We encourage the children not to come. Now is not the time to come. Don’t come. The journey is dangerous. We develop safe, orderly and humane ways to meet the needs of vulnerable children. Don’t come, ”says Majorkas.
RAICES Texas, a group that provides legal services to immigrant children, families and asylum seekers, said the arrival of unaccompanied minors in the United States was not new, and urged the government to go beyond rebuilding what the Trump administration dismantled.
“Every year, thousands of people knock on our door, whether under [former President Barack] Obama, Trump or current President Joe Biden, ”the group said in a statement last week.
“What we need is not just a solution to the system that was wiped out by the Trump administration, but rather an entirely different approach to this issue as a whole.
“We need an immigration system that recognizes the current cyclical reality and seeks to welcome our migrant sisters and brothers, recognizing why they have been and continue to be uprooted from their countries of origin in the first place.”
Everyone blames the number of children for this so-called “border crisis”.
The truth is, the government has had years to plan for a humane approach. pic.twitter.com/QpMFEBRMrn
– PRICES (@RAICESTEXAS) March 19, 2021