The Biden administration is working to "rebuild" the immigration system that was "entirely disbanded" under former President Donald Trump, but meanwhile, the U.S.-Mexico border is "secure" despite the surge of migrants, particularly children, who are coming into the country after President Joe Biden took office, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said Tuesday.
"I think actually we are (saying) do not come now, give us the time to rebuild the system that was entirely dismantled in the prior administration," Mayorkas said on ABC News' "Good Morning America." "We have, in fact, begun to rebuild that system. We reinstututed the Central American minors program that provides a legal and safe way for children to make their claims here in the United States under the laws that were passed unanimously by Congress many years ago."
Mayorkas' comments came after he issued a statement earlier on Tuesday defending how the administration is handling the surge of unaccompanied minors at the border.
"We are expelling most single adults and families," he said in the statement. "We are not expelling unaccompanied children."
The number of people trying to cross the border is at its highest level since 2019 and could hit a 20-year peak.
Mayorkas told "Good Morning America" anchor George Stephanopoulos Tuesday that the border is not only secure, but families are being expelled under the authority of the Centers for Disease Control in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We are expelling single adults, and what we are doing is addressing young children who come to the border to make claims under the humanitarian laws that our country sustained years and years ago," said Mayorkas. "We are building the capacity to address the needs of those children when they arrive, but we are also critically sending an important message that now is not the time to come to the border. And it's an important message."
The administration said Monday it plans to use the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in downtown Dallas to hold as many as 3,000 teenagers while the border crossings are straining the capacity at the border to keep young migrants there.
According to the notification sent to members of the Dallas City Council, federal agencies will use the facility to house boys ages 15-17.
The Biden administration is working to secure young migrants to ensure their safety, said Mayorkas.
However, the administration is urging people south of the border to wait to make the trip and to "give us time to build an orderly, safe way to arrive in the United States and make the claims that the law permits you to make," said Mayorkas.
He added that the administration knows how to secure the border, and how to care for the children that have come across.
"It's about providing the legal and safe avenue for them to come, and we are rebuilding that with tremendous speed," Mayorkas said.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has blamed the surge on the Biden administration and its open borders policy, but Mayorkas said the administration is getting cooperation from local officials there.
"Unfortunately, our ability to reimburse those local officials under the FEMA authorities, to reimburse them for the money that they spend in caring for these children was blocked," said Mayorkas. "We are looking for other solutions to deliver help to those community-based organizations that want to help the children that have taken the dangerous journey. We are working with other states cooperatively and we are building our own capacity to address the needs of children to make sure that they are cared for."
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