(CBP Photo by Jerry Glaser)
By Ryan Knappenberger | Cronkite News
WASHINGTON – Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas defended the Biden administration’s immigration policies Wednesday, but conceded the department faces “historic and unprecedented challenges” coping with a surge in migrants, particularly unaccompanied minors, in recent months.
Mayorkas’ comments came in his first appearance as secretary before a congressional committee, where Republican lawmakers continued to blame the surge on Biden policies that they said amount to an incentive to migrants to come to the U.S.
“We are seeing an unprecedented crisis unfold during the pandemic,” said Rep. John Katko, R-N.Y. “The situation at the border continues to get worse every day with inadequate action or even proper acknowledgement of the severity of the situation.”
But Mayorkas pushed back against calls for a return to the harsh methods of the Trump administration, many of which President Joe Biden reversed soon after taking office. He said Trump’s “zero tolerance” policies that led to the separation of families and forced return of asylum seekers were the true border crisis.
“A crisis is when a nation is willing to rip a 9-year-old child out of the hands of his or her parent and separate that family to deter future migration,” Mayorkas told lawmakers on the House Homeland Security Committee.
“The surge of asylum seekers at the border is undoubtedly going to present difficulties for the Biden administration and cannon fodder for its critics. The challenge will be to provide a humane, structured, and rational approach to legal immigration while deflecting the criticism of being ‘soft’ on immigration or border enforcement. The hope for immigration advocates is that this emerging crisis at the border is not used by critics to successfully conflate or deflect from the popular legislation already on the table to address the status of millions of Dreamers, immigrants and their families who are already residents of the United States.”
Darius Amiri, Rose Law Group Immigration Law Dept. Chair