The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said in a statement Tuesday, March 16, that the number of immigrants attempting to enter the United States through its southern border is expected to reach the highest level in two decades.
The statement came amid a recent surge in unaccompanied migrant children making the trip with the aim of reuniting with their parents in the United States, a situation that has put the Joe Biden administration in the hot seat as it struggled to convey a message of hope to the immigrants while discouraging them to enter the country through irregular channels.
“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,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in the statement.
Mayorkas acknowledged the difficult nature of the current situation along the southern border, saying that the DHS has “no illusions about how hard it is,” and that “it will take time” to remedy the problems.
The ultimate goal, he said, is “a safe, legal and orderly immigration system that is based on our bedrock priorities: to keep our borders secure, address the plight of children as the law requires, and enable families to be together.”
Appearing on CNN Tuesday, Roberta Jacobson, White House coordinator for the southern border and former U.S. ambassador to Mexico, defended Biden’s immigration policy in the face of Republican criticism, saying it is a “more humane system, but it is not open borders.”
She also acknowledged that the administration has encountered difficulty in telling those opportunistic immigrants who attempt to cross the border in an “irregular fashion” to go home.
“But the smugglers’ message is very pervasive, they prey on people and they prey on their hope and they tell them things that simply aren’t true,” Jacobson said.
The number of unaccompanied children detained in jail-like U.S. Border Patrol facilities on the southern border has risen to over 4,000, according to a CNN report on Monday, March 15, adding further stress to the system in which kids should be held up for no more than 72 hours before being transferred to shelters run by refugee agencies that have better accommodation.
A sizable number of the detained, however, have stayed in those facilities for an extended period of time. The government is expected to use a convention center in Dallas, Texas, to house up to 3,000 migrant teenage boys, the Associated Press reported on Tuesday.
The Biden administration is under growing pressure from both within the Democratic Party and across the political aisle regarding its mishandling of the current migrant influx and its overall immigration strategy.
Joe Manchin, the Democratic senator from West Virginia, in an interview this week with CNN, characterized the border situation as a “crisis,” a word that Biden administration officials have refused to use when pressed by reporters multiple times.
Congressional Democrats meanwhile are trying to push for a broad overhaul of the broken immigration system, which they blamed on the former Donald Trump administration’s restrictive policies on immigration, by passing small bills in a piecemeal manner.
The overall goal of the comprehensive legislation, the U.S. Citizenship Act, is to eventually give the 11 million immigrants now illegally residing in the country a pathway to U.S. citizenship.
Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Dick Durbin, the chamber’s second-ranking Democrat, said on Monday that he doesn’t believe there’s enough support in Congress to pass the U.S. Citizenship Act. Its passage would require 60 votes to overcome a potential Republican filibuster.
…March 17, 2021