WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said, despite issues at the U.S.-Mexico border, the Biden administration is making huge efforts to move unaccompanied migrant children out of crowded border stations.
At a hearing Thursday, Mayorkas said the number of unaccompanied children in those stations went from 5,700 in late March to under 500 this week.
Mayorkas also said the challenge is not yet behind us, but called the results dramatic.
“We are dedicated to an orderly, safe and humane immigration system,” said Secretary Mayorkas.
Secretary Mayorkas insisted to senators on Thursday that things are getting better at the border.
“I am privileged to speak with you about the challenges we’ve confronted, the actions we’ve taken to overcome those challenges, and the extraordinary results we’ve achieved thus far,” Mayorkas said.
The data tells a more nuanced story. While the number of children in poor conditions at border facilities has dramatically gone down, the number of migrants making the perilous journey to the U.S. border continues to rise.
“Do you recognize this as an alarming crisis,” asked Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah).
“I look at immigration as a challenge that has been persistent,” Secretary Mayorkas responded.
“Of course, but we were running along here. And now we’re seeing apprehensions that have skyrocketed,” Romney said pointing to a chart.
In April, Customs and Border Protection encountered and apprehended 173,000 migrants at the border — more than the previous month, of 169,000 — both setting records.
The number of unaccompanied children is still near an all-time high, dipping only slightly from 18,700 in March to about 17,000 in April.
“Comprehensive immigration reform, why is that important today,” asked Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.).
“I think we all agree is…the fact that our current system is absolutely broken,” Mayorkas said.
Secretary Mayorkas said fully fixing the border problem won’t happen until Congress acts to overhaul the country’s immigration laws. He blamed, in part, the Trump administration for what’s happening now.”
“They dismantled the tools we had to address it,” he said.
Republicans pushed back. Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) said the former administration only dismantled facilities that house migrant kids because they made clear those kids would be turned back.
“The kids weren’t coming in. These are the facts, these are the charts,” said Sen. Portman.
Nonetheless, Mayorkas said the laws dictate migrants do have a right to make an asylum claim — and that children making those claims will not be turned away.
He said there’s work to be done but that the U.S. is now handling this vulnerable population in a more humane way.