President Biden’s Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Monday said that “loving parents” are sending nine-year-old children alone to the US-Mexico border.
Mayorkas made the remark while describing how minors without parents are detained by US authorities before possible placement with foster parents.
About 2,200 children crossed the border each week in February as Republicans accused Biden of creating “pull” factors by changing former President Donald Trump’s border policies.
“The Trump administration expelled children to Mexico. And we are not expelling young children,” Mayorkas said at a White House press briefing.
“We are not apprehending a nine-year-old child who’s come alone, who has traversed Mexico, whose parents — whose loving parents — had sent that child alone, we are not expelling that nine-year-old child to Mexico when that child’s origin, country of origin, was Guatemala, Honduras or El Salvador.”
Mayorkas said, “We are actually bringing that child into a Border Patrol station as a stepping point to get that child in the hands of HHS, that has the capacity and in the unique talents to care for the child — health care workers, mental health counseling and the like — and moving that child to a sponsor as quickly as possible.”
The Biden administration recently opened two overflow detention facilities for minors who arrive at the border without parents. Republicans and progressive Democrats such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) say that Biden’s detention camps for young migrants are similar to those denounced as putting “kids in cages” under Trump.
Trump on Sunday slammed Biden, saying that “Joe Biden has triggered a massive flood of illegal immigration into our country the likes of which we have never seen before.”
Said Trump: “They’re all coming because of promises and foolish words. Perhaps worst of all, Joe Biden’s decision to cancel border security has single-handedly launched a youth migrant crisis that is enriching child smugglers, vicious criminal cartels and some of the most evil people on the planet.”
Reports of sexual abuse are common among unaccompanied minors, including while in US government custody.
Biden will meet virtually with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador on Monday and is expected to discuss the migrant crisis.
Biden ended construction of Trump’s US-Mexico border wall and began to end the “Remain in Mexico” policy, under which about 71,000 Central American asylum applicants were awaiting rulings in Mexico. He affirmed the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which gives work permits and protection from deportation to people brought illegally to the US as minors, and proposed legislation to create a path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the US.