The Biden administration won’t expel unaccompanied minor migrants despite holding facilities rapidly running out of room to house them, a Homeland Security Department official said Tuesday.
The U.S. is on track to see a record number of migrants at the southern border this year and officials are expelling most single adults and family units but allowing unaccompanied minors to remain in government facilities, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement. Over 9,400 unaccompanied minors were apprehended in February and nearly 30,000 have been encountered since October 2020, according to Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
“We are not expelling unaccompanied children,” Mayorkas said. “We are securing our border, executing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) public health authority to safeguard the American public and the migrants themselves, and protecting the children.”
“We are encountering many unaccompanied children at our southwest border every day,” Mayorkas said. “We are encountering six- and seven-year-old children, for example, arriving at our border without an adult. They are vulnerable children and we have ended the prior administration’s practice of expelling them.”
The CDC allowed facilities holding migrant children to operate at 100% capacity despite COVID-19 guidelines, the Daily Caller News Foundation reported. However, Mayorkas said that COVID-19 restrictions and protocols including physical distancing should be maintained within facilities.
“We have developed a framework for partnering with local mayors and public health officials to pay for 100% of the expense for testing, isolation, and quarantine for migrants,” Mayorkas said.
Mayorkas referred to the situation at the southern border as a “migration surge” similar to conditions in 2019 and 2014, according to the statement. He added that encounters have increased at the southern border since April 2020.
“We are standing up additional facilities in Texas and Arizona to shelter unaccompanied children and families,” Mayorkas said. He added that the Biden administration is working with Mexico to increase its ability to receive expelled family units.
Over 71,000 single adults and around 19,000 migrants traveling as a family unit were encountered in February 2021, according to CBP. In February 2019 officials encountered over 28,000 single adults and around 40,000 family units were encountered.
Mayorkas said single adults from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras are being expelled to Mexico under Title 42, a CDC order implemented to manage the public health crisis caused by COVID-19. Single adults from other countries are flown back to their home countries if Mexico won’t accept them.