Homeland Security secretary Alejandro Mayorkas warned that the number of illegal immigrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border could reach levels not seen in 20 years, in a Tuesday statement on the emerging border crisis.
Mayorkas blamed the crisis on a confluence of poverty and violence in Mexico and the Northern Triangle countries, natural disasters including November hurricanes and the coronavirus pandemic, and the Trump administration’s policies. There are currently over 4,000 unaccompanied minors detained in Border Patrol facilities, with another 9,000 in care of the Department of Health and Human Services.
“The situation at the southwest border is difficult,” Mayorkas said in his statement. “We are on pace to encounter more individuals on the southwest border than we have in the last 20 years. We are expelling most single adults and families. We are not expelling unaccompanied children.”
Mayorkas noted that influxes of migrants have occurred in 2019, 2014, and in previous years.
“Poverty, high levels of violence, and corruption in Mexico and the Northern Triangle countries have propelled migration to our southwest border for years,” Mayorkas said.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection has reported that over 100,000 migrants attempted to cross the border in February, up 28 percent from the previous month and triple the number of migrants in February 2019. Many migrants believe that Biden will institute looser immigration policies.
“Biden promised us that everything was going to change,” Gladys Oneida Pérez Cruz, a migrant from Honduras, told The New York Times on Sunday. “He hasn’t done it yet, but he is going to be a good president for migrants.” Pérez and her son, who has cerebral palsy, were turned away from the U.S. after smugglers claimed that the border was open.
Mayorkas also blamed the Trump administration for the crisis, saying it “completely dismantled the asylum system,” and “cut foreign aid funding to the Northern Triangle.” The Trump administration in fact restored some aid to those countries in 2019 after they agreed to receive illegal immigrants expelled by the U.S.
Mayorkas’s statement came a day after a delegation of Republican representatives visited the U.S.-Mexico border at El Paso, Texas, and claimed the president “created” the border crisis.
Biden “should talk to the border agents, and let them know that this is beyond a crisis,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) said at a press conference. “He can continue to deny it, but the only way to solve it is to first, admit what he has done.”
Republicans have cited Biden’s removal of Trump administration policies, such as the “Remain in Mexico” rule, as fueling the crisis.