WASHINGTON – This week, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas once again made several false or misleading statements about the border crisis in a range of high-profile interviews. These statements are the latest in a disturbing pattern of dishonesty and double-speak from the Biden administration on the crisis it has created on our southern border. Members of Heritage’s immigration team and former DHS leaders Chad Wolf, Lora Ries and Mark Morgan today released the following responses to Mayorkas’ claims in an effort to provide the American people with the facts about the Biden border crisis, especially as Vice President Kamala Harris takes the reins of the White House response to its self-inflicted crisis:
Claim #1: “The border is secure. The border is closed.” – Mayorkas on “Fox News Sunday,” March 21, 2021
“The border is not remotely secure, and is wide open for any and all who want to come illegally. In February, more than 100,000 individuals tried to illegally cross the border, up from 78,000 in January. The number of apprehensions in February is the highest for the month since 2006. More than 6,000 illegal aliens were apprehended in one day last month – a higher daily total than any during the 2019 crisis. CBP alone currently has more than 10,000 unaccompanied minors, family units, and single adults in custody. In November 2020, this number was less than 800.
“Further, those 100,000 apprehensions just count the illegal aliens Border Patrol and other federal agencies were able to detain. It does not include the ‘got-aways’ – those who manage to evade law enforcement and enter the country illegally. This number is estimated to be in the tens of thousands, with an estimated 1,000 illegal aliens every day evading detention and entering the U.S. illegally. Mayorkas himself has said, ‘We are on pace to encounter more individuals on the Southwest border than we have in the last 20 years.’ CBP officials are also reporting that more than 20,000 illegal aliens have been released into the interior by CBP ‘on their own recognizance’ in 2021, while in 2020, CBP released fewer than 1,000. The total number of illegal aliens released this year exceeds 40,000, at minimum. They are being forced to do so because of the sheer volume of the surge created by Biden’s border crisis.
“Dozens of Border Patrol agents are being re-assigned from actually patrolling the border to take care of the exploding number of unaccompanied minors in federal custody, thus making it easier for migrants to cross the border illegally. Recent reports also show that smuggling groups are embedding criminals in family groups being sent to the border. The Biden administration is expelling fewer of these family units by the day, and releasing more of them into the U.S., thereby importing criminals into our country. If this is a ‘secure’ border, I would hate to see what Sec. Mayorkas believes to be ‘insecure.’ His insistence on lying to the American people about the status of the border is perfect D.C.-doublespeak, but he knows the truth just as well as the rest of us – he and the president have sparked a border crisis.” – Former Acting CBP Commissioner Mark Morgan
Claim #2: “But it is taking time and it is difficult, because the entire system was dismantled by the prior administration. There was a system in place in both Republican and Democratic administrations that was torn down during the Trump administration.” – Mayorkas on “State of the Union,” March 21, 2021
“The Trump administration built a strong, effective, and comprehensive policy to secure our border and enforce our immigration laws. The Biden administration began tearing that down on day one. The Trump administration implemented the Remain in Mexico policy, which immediately began reducing the number of fraudulent asylum claims being filed. It negotiated new ‘safe third country’ agreements with Central American partners to give asylum-seekers the chance to apply for asylum in the first safe country which they entered. Under President Trump, the U.S. asylum program reached new heights, as the administration prioritized reducing an Obama-era asylum backlog by hiring 500 new asylum officers and preventing asylum fraud so that bona fide applicants could finally have their cases completed. As a result, more asylum claims were granted by the Trump administration in 2019 than any year since at least 1990, and more in 2017-2019 than the highest four years of the Obama/Biden administration. All of that progress has now been undone.
“If the media would do its job and actually press Secretary Mayorkas about which asylum programs Trump supposedly ‘dismantled,’ the secretary would not be able to give a truthful answer, because if anyone has ‘dismantled’ the immigration system, it is this president and his DHS secretary. Mayorkas may be grasping for the Central American Minor program in his attacks, but that program encouraged refugee fraud as a ticket to be reunited with parents already in the U.S. Even if a minor was found ineligible for refugee status, he or she was paroled into the U.S. anyway, violating the parole statute. The program was wisely terminated as a poor use of resources because so few were eligible for refugee status.” – Lora Ries, senior research fellow for homeland security & former acting DHS deputy chief of staff
Claim #3: “We are expelling families. We are expelling single adults. We have communicated and we will continue to communicate to the children, do not come.” – Mayorkas on “State of the Union,” March 21, 2021
“By mentioning family units alongside single adults, one would believe DHS is expelling family units in large numbers – similar to adults. However, this is not the case. DHS is expelling family units less and less as each day goes by. In December 2020, under President Trump, more than 75% of family units were being expelled from the country. In February, under President Biden, the number was just 41%. A new report from Axios shows that from March 14-21, just 13% of family units were sent back. DHS also likes to blame lack of resources in Mexico for the detention – and release – of increasing numbers of family units in the U.S., as if the U.S. is unable to deport these family units back to their country of origin.
“The Biden administration has also put out a glowing neon sign basically advertising a wide-open border for unaccompanied minors. On March 18, Secretary Mayorkas told “CBS This Morning” that the U.S. ‘will not expel’ unaccompanied minors who arrive at the border. He has consistently repeated this refrain, including Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” saying, ‘And we've made a decision that we will not expel young, vulnerable children.’ This is a message to every Central American parent that if their son or daughter arrives at the border, they will be released into the U.S.
“This message from the administration is driving thousands of Central and South American parents to break up their families and place their children in the vicious grasp of smugglers and human traffickers, even though many of these minors will be abused, trafficked, or worse along the way. We know that migrants don’t listen to government officials – rather, they’re listening to the experiences of those who have made it to the U.S. and been released. It makes sense, then, why CBP sources are reporting more than 500 encounters with unaccompanied minors every single day, and more than 40,000 apprehensions of UACs in 2021.” – Former Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf
Claim #4: “Border Patrol agents are focused on operations, on securing the border, on addressing the needs of vulnerable children.” – Mayorkas on “Meet the Press,” March 21, 2021
“Another misleading line from the secretary. As the Washington Examiner has reported, Border Patrol agents are being taken off law enforcement duty to provide care for the rapidly increasing number of unaccompanied minors in federal custody right now. Border Patrol agents should not be changing diapers and stocking shelves – they signed up to be on the front lines, protecting our borders and enforcing our laws. During the 2019 crisis – which President Trump acted swiftly to resolve – upwards of 40% of agents were pulled from their primary duties to serve as federal childcare workers. The same circumstances are repeating themselves today, and given the Biden administration’s apparent disinterest in resolving the crisis, the number of unaccompanied minors will likely blow 2019’s totals out of the water.” – Former Acting CBP Commissioner Mark Morgan
Claim #5: “Chris, we're working on providing access so that individuals will be able to see what the conditions in a Border Patrol station are like. But first things first, we are in the midst of a pandemic and we're focused on operations and executing on our plans. That's our highest priority.” – Mayorkas on “Fox News Sunday,” March 21, 2021
“It’s incredible that the administration continues to stonewall members of the press and the American people who are looking for the truth about the dangerously overcrowded conditions in DHS facilities. It’s also disingenuous for the administration to claim that that it would be unsafe for members of the press to have access to these facilities, while simultaneously forcing the CBP workforce, as well as the migrants themselves, to work and live in an environment defying basic CDC COVID requirements – conditions which could have been prevented had the Biden administration listened to the warnings of border security experts.” – Former Acting CBP Commissioner Mark Morgan