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Homeland Sec. Mayorkas: US seeing more immigrants at SW border 'than we have in the last 20 years'

"We have more work to do," Mayorkas also said.

Updated: March 17, 2021 - 9:22am

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas acknowledged Tuesday the U.S. is now on pace to see more immigrants at the country’s southwest border "than we have in the last 20 years."

The number of Latin American residents coming to the U.S.-Mexico border has drastically increased since Democrat President Joe Biden took office in late-January, based in part on the expectation the U.S. will have less stringent immigration policies than under the Trump administration. 

"The situation at the southwest border is difficult," Mayorkas said Tuesday in a lengthy statement. "We are on pace to encounter more individuals on the southwest border than we have in the last 20 years.

Among the biggest influx is unaccompanied minors. 

Government figures show a growing crisis at the border as hundreds of those children illegally enter the U.S. from Mexico daily and are taken into custody.

The Homeland Security Department is supposed to process and transfer unaccompanied minor children to the Department of Health and Human Services within three days so that they can be placed with a parent already living in the United States, or other suitable sponsor, until their immigration cases can be resolved.

But more children are being held longer at Border Patrol facilities that weren’t designed with their care in mind because long-term shelters run by the Department of Health and Human Services have next to no capacity to accommodate them. 

COVID health-safety rules have also limited capacity.

Children are being apprehended daily at far higher rates than HHS can release them to parents or sponsors, the Associated Press reports. 

"We are expelling most single adults and families," Mayorkas also said. "We are not expelling unaccompanied children. We are securing our border, executing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s public health authority to safeguard the American public and the migrants themselves and protecting the children.” 

Still, Mayorkas acknowledged, "We have more work to do."

He also said the situation now is not new, citing migration surges in 2019, 2014, and before. He also said the number of encounters at the southwest border has that since April 2020 been steadily increasing, and that U.S. Border Patrol agents are "working around-the-clock to process the flow."

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