DHS Secretary Mayorkas flies under the radar during fact-finding tour to El Paso

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Pressure building for DHS to slow flow of new migrants or to provide adequate funds for their care

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EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Facing criticism from the left and the right over the federal response to the migrant surge on the border, the Secretary of Homeland Security was in El Paso on Friday educating himself about the problem.

Mayorkas visited the CHS Trail House in the East El Paso County community of Montana Vista, which houses unaccompanied minors after they are released from federal processing facilities. The house is under contract by the Office of Refugee Resettlement to provide care and services for unaccompanied migrant children and began operations in September.

The secretary traveled to El Paso with a bipartisan delegation of senators to be briefed on how unaccompanied children arriving at the border are processed, housed and transferred. The delegation consisted of Sens. Gary Peters, D-Michigan and chair of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Rob Portman, R-Ohio and ranking member of the same committee, Chris Murphy, D-Connecticut and chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security, and Shelley Moore Capito, R-West Virginia and ranking member of the subcommittee.

The news media was excluded from the tour and Mayorkas did not speak with reporters afterwards.

Neither of the two Republican senators from Texas, John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, were with Mayorkas.

“No press. No cameras. What is Biden hiding?” tweeted Cruz on Friday under the hashtag #BorderCrisis. “Next week, I’m bringing 15 senators to the border (and) DHS said no to our request to bring media.”

Cornyn, another stakeholder in what the Biden administration has taken to calling the “immigration challenge,” has already been to the U.S.-Mexico border recently and plans to return.

“Sen. Cornyn was not in El Paso today, but he was on the border last week and will be back on the border next week,” said Libby Sharp, Cornyn’s Texas press secretary.

Later, Cornyn also took to Twitter to emphasize there is an immigration crisis on the border.

“Even as the Biden Administration is sending FEMA to the border they still refuse to admit this is a crisis,” Cornyn wrote. “The Biden Administration has incentivized crossing the border illegally with little to no consequences. The President needs to talk to the local officials at our southern border and address this crisis immediately.”

Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, did make it to El Paso and wasn’t pleased with what he saw.

“One thing is certainly clear from my visit. The Biden administration’s dismantling of the previous admin’s policies with no consideration of the ramifications has incentivized migration, and increased Border Patrol manpower is critical,” he tweeted.

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, right, speaks with U.S. Border Patrol El Paso Sector Chief Patrol Agent Gloria Chavez on March 19, 2021, in El Paso, Texas. (Twitter: @senrobportman)

Portman added that Border Patrol agents are concerned about the rapid increase in unaccompanied migrant children, which increased 62% between January and February. Total encounters with unauthorized migrants topped 100,000 in February.

Earlier on Friday, a handful of migrant advocates praised Biden for rolling back Trump-era immigration policies but urged him to send funds to properly care for the unaccompanied minors and other newly arrived migrant families.

“This something that shouldn’t be the responsibility of nonprofit organizations. We are doing it because we believe in our humanity and in our community. But this is something that needs an institutional response,” said Fernando Garcia, executive director of the Border Network for Human Rights. “We need massive resources on the ground not for detention centers but to assist these people.”

The activists opined the Biden administration was not prepared for the uptick in migration flows, though they said they don’t see an immigration crisis as much as a brewing humanitarian crisis if the federal government doesn’t send needed funds to assist the new arrivals.

This was Mayorkas’ second trip to the border this month. On March 6, he visited a tent facility in Donna, Texas, where CBP processes undocumented migrants. On the same day, he visited the migrant detention facility at Carrizo Springs, Texas.

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