On Friday and Saturday, the White House faced backlash from journalists, reporters and immigration advocates who have traditionally been given access and ride-alongs to the southern border and surrounding facilities.
On Friday, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas visited El Paso, Texas, with a Democrat delegation of about 12 senators. This border trip was unlike others because it was not open to the media, and there was no press briefing afterward. Mayorkas’ visit fueled growing criticism that the Biden administration has not been transparent and forthcoming about the conditions along the 2,000-mile-long southern border stretch. In a DHS statement, a spokesperson said that Friday’s El Paso visit was closed to the press due to “privacy and COVID-19 precautions.”
Currently, the government has approximately 14,000 migrant children in its custody. The overwhelming majority of them are from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. U.S. law requires unaccompanied children to be turned over within 72 hours to Health and Human Services custody. As of Tuesday, approximately 300 unaccompanied migrant children have been in U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) custody for over 10 days. More than 4,200 unaccompanied migrants have been under CBP’s custody for an average duration of 120 hours.
Unlike the previous administration, the Biden administration allows unaccompanied minors to remain in the U.S. as their immigration status is processed. Allowing them to stay has put stress on the processing system and caused a backlog of unaccompanied minors to stay. CBP will continue to turn away adult migrants.
“We are expelling under the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) public health authority in light of the pandemic … We are expelling families under that same public health authority, limited only by the capacity of Mexico to receive them,” Mayorkas said.
Last week, Mayorkas stated that the U.S. is on pace to encounter more individuals on the southern border this year than in the past 20 years. On Wednesday, he remained firm that “the border is secure and the border is not open.”
On Friday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki stated, “We remain committed to transparency and are considering potential options, and we hope to have an update soon.”
While there is no clear indication on when the press will be allowed to visit border facilities, the rest of the country watches as the debate regarding the U.S-Mexico border heats up.
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