EL PASO, Texas -- U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas placed the blame for the current influx of migrants on the southern border at the feet of the prior administration.
"Why is it especially challenging and difficult now, because the entire system under United States law that has been in place throughout administrations of both parties was dismantled in its entirety by the Trump administration," Mayorkas told ABC News' "This Week" co-host Martha Raddatz on Sunday morning from El Paso. "So we are rebuilding the system as we address the needs of vulnerable children who arrive at our borders."
"We are rebuilding the system as we address the needs of vulnerable children who arrive at our borders," DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas tells @MarthaRaddatz. https://t.co/COj3g4MhLm pic.twitter.com/F0yHIQpDl1— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) March 21, 2021
Mayorkas reiterated that the border is not open and that migrants should not come to the southern border -- especially in the midst of the pandemic.
"Now is not the time to come," Mayorkas stressed. "Do not come. This journey is dangerous. We are building safe, orderly and humane ways to address the needs of vulnerable children, do not come."
The secretary also said that they were using “Title 42” to send back migrants across the border due to the pandemic -- keeping this existing Trump administration policy has drawn criticism from immigration advocates.
Mayorkas said it takes time to get a system in place to overhaul what he calls a "dismantled" immigration system.
Responding to a quetion from Raddatz about a tweet from Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy, who said he was holding back tears after seeing a 13-year-old girl sobbing uncontrollably to a translator while he visited the border in El Paso this past week with Mayorkas, the secretary said: “We all know what happened to that 13-year-old girl in the prior administration, she was turned away and turned into the desert of Mexico, or sent back to the very country for which she led by reason of fear of persecution, we are addressing the needs of that child,” he explained. “Now, when I say it takes time, I mean it, because we're dealing with a dismantled system.”
DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas addresses the surge of migrants at the border: "When I say it takes time, I mean it. Because we are dealing with a dismantled system." https://t.co/COj3g4MhLm pic.twitter.com/cMAE5SO8hp— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) March 21, 2021
Mayorkas also was pressed by Raddatz on why the Department of Homeland Security has not let in members of the media to see U.S. Customs and Border Protection facilities along the southern border.
“We're talking about a crowded border patrol station where we are focused on operations at the same time and let me assure you that we are working on a plan to provide access so that people can see what is going on in a border patrol station,” he said, adding that they should also look at an HHS facility.
There are now more than 5,000 unaccompanied minors in Border Patrol custody, three sources confirmed to ABC News.
Additionally, two sources familiar with the data confirm that more than 600 have been in custody for more than 10 days.
The number of unaccompanied migrant minors under the care of U.S. Health and Human Services has increased to about 10,500, according an HHS official and document obtained by ABC News, which is different than the number of unaccompanied minors in Border Patrol custody.
The document also shows that, on average, HHS is taking in far more migrant children than it can match with sponsors and family members. The 7-day average of daily referrals, most of which come from Border Patrol, was 468 per day while the number of those discharged was 224 per day.
The HHS Office of Refugee Resettlement will open a new influx shelter in Pecos, Texas, which will operate similarly to the facility at Carrizo Springs. Unlike the Midland, Texas, site or the Dallas convention center, this new facility announced by the Office of Refugee Resettlement on Saturday will offer long-term care for migrant children before they are matched with sponsors.