Mayorkas: ‘Dramatic’ drop in migrant youth in DHS custody results of partnerships with different companies
DONNA, Texas (border report) – Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas returned to the controversial migrant processing center in the south Texas border town of Donna on Friday and spoke to the news media for the first time on multiple visits after touring the facility.
Mayorkas spoke to two dozen reporters in a covered, artificial-turf-lined outdoor recreation area in the extensive processing center grounds and repeatedly praised the Biden government for reducing the number of unaccompanied migrant children in DHS care there.
He said the number of unaccompanied migrant children at the facility is now 334, a significant decrease from 3,700 on April 2. Mayorkas added that the average time children are detained is 24 hours, up from 133 hours on March 28 at the height of the recent surge from Mexico to South Texas.
He called it a “dramatic change” and said it was possible because of increased partnerships between multiple government agencies such as the US Border Patrol. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA); US Immigration and Customs Services (ICE); and the US Department of Health (HHS).
“The President took a whole-of-government approach and we have certainly achieved that,” Mayorkas said. But he added that they are just getting started.
“The plan will take some time to execute and it will be difficult to do, but this is what we do: we do the hard work. We know how to do it, ”said Mayorkas.
. @ SecMayorkas has landed. Heading to the Donna facility now with members of @HispanicCaucus to see firsthand the progress it has made in getting children out of custody by the Border Patrol.
Last month there were 2,200 people there on my supervisory trip – less than 800 today. Pic.twitter.com/i1sptPfW04
– Nanette D. Barragán (@RepBarragan) May 7, 2021
Mayorkas were joined by five Democratic congressional women on Friday, including two from Texas, who pledged to bring back what they saw on Friday to Congress.
U.S. Representative Nanette Barragán from California said she last visited the facility three weeks ago when more than 2,200 unaccompanied teenagers and immigrant families were housed in a couple of tents and had little social distance despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
After touring on Friday, she called it a “remarkable difference”.
From left: U.S. Representatives Lucille Roybal-Allard from California, Veronica Escobar from Texas, Nanette Barragán and Linda Sanchez from California toured the migrant processing facility in Donna, Texas on Friday, May 7, 2021. (Border Photo Report / Sandra Sanchez)
Barragán said signs were put up explaining to the children their rights: make a phone call, ask for food or other needs.
“It’s great to see that the administration and the secretary are here and ready to listen to what has to happen,” said Barragán.
Notable progress was made today with @SecMayorkas at the Border Patrol Donna Facility in Texas.
Migrants in custody have fallen by more than 1,400 since last time and no child has been in BP custody for more than 24 hours. All the children had called the family too. pic.twitter.com/8jtntphJbA
– Nanette D. Barragán (@RepBarragan) May 7, 2021
The border report asked Mayorkas if the 334 children detained were unaccompanied migrant youth on the premises or if children were in other tents on the premises under the care of HHS officials.
He replied, “The numbers I have given in relation to the children here at the Donna facility are an accurate representation of the number of children here at the Donna facility.”
DHS photos of empty immigrant youth processing plants are misleading, says the congressman
Earlier this week, U.S. Representative Henry Cuellar, a Democrat who is vice chairman of House Appropriations Homeland Security, said many of the immigrant unaccompanied youths moved from border guards-run tents to border guards-run tents relocated to the same locations.
“All they do is take kids from one tent to another and say, ‘Oh, they’re not in Border Police (custody) but they’re right next door,” said Cuellar. “They’re right next door in HHS. “
ABOVE: The sprawling migrant processing facility in Donna, Texas, can be seen on May 5, 2021. BELOW: A leisure yard lined with astro-lawn is located in the facility, as seen on May 7, 2021. (Border Report Photos / Sandra Sanchez)
A Border Patrol spokeswoman told Border Report after Friday’s press conference that the current facility has two sections – Donna 1 and Donna 2. And they are building a section of Donna 3 that will be fenced off and will have a separate gate and This area is operated by HHS.
We have reached out to HHS for clarification and will update this story as information comes in.
A border guard station is not a place for a child. “
DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas
But Mayorkas made it clear in his remarks that he believed that the children in HHS custody would be safer and better cared for because this agency was set up for the needs of young people.
“We have revised the procedure for treating unaccompanied children and handing them over to children’s homes where they belong,” Mayorkas said. “A border guard station is not a place for a child.”
Home Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas toured the migrant processing facility in Donna, Texas on May 7, 2021, along with Democratic Congresswoman Veronica Escobar from Texas and Nanette Barragán from California from left. (Border report photo / Sandra Sanchez)
California US Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard, chair of the House Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee, said coordination between Border Patrol and the HHS Refugee Resettlement Office “did not previously exist”. And these agencies are now not only working together to sort and process the kids quickly, but the FEMA officials are also helping on the ground.
Last month, the federal government called on all federal employees to register for assistance in processing centers with young migrants for up to 120 days.
The government urges all federal employees to help with unaccompanied migrant children
In addition, Roybal-Allard said that “some of the obstacles” that had stopped reunification between children and their parents “are going much smoother because, under the guidance of the secretary, we now have those coordinated efforts among the various agencies that don’t has given.” ”
But she added, “There is still a lot to be done.”
And along with her colleagues lining up next to Mayorkas, Roybal-Allard urged Congress to work across the aisle to pass comprehensive immigration reform to stop the flow of “irregular immigration”.
The Biden government has continued to expel unaccompanied Mexican children
California MP Linda Sánchez is a sponsor of Biden’s US Citizenship Act, which provides citizenship routes for millions of migrants and is currently bogged down in a divided Congress.
U.S. Representative Veronica Escobar said border towns like her hometown of El Paso, Texas, tend to get bad reputations and too much focus during the immigration spurts. And she criticized the mostly Republican-led Congress delegations that have been touring border areas in West Texas and South Texas since March.
“The crisis was our inability to adequately manage vulnerable populations,” Escobar said. “And the reluctance of some to pass laws.”
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