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Mayorkas: U.S. border 'is closed,' opening new migrant facilities

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said the southern U.S. border is closed as documents showed more than 5,000 children are being held at Customs and Border Protection facilities. Pool Photo by Oliver Contreras/UPI
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said the southern U.S. border is closed as documents showed more than 5,000 children are being held at Customs and Border Protection facilities. Pool Photo by Oliver Contreras/UPI | License Photo

March 21 (UPI) -- Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Sunday asserted that the U.S. border is closed but declined to state when the Biden administration will open new facilities to accommodate an influx of unaccompanied children arriving from the southern border.

Appearing on ABC News' This Week, Mayorkas was asked to clarify what host Martha Raddatz described as "mixed" messages from the administration on immigration, to which he replied that migrants should not seek to enter the United States.

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"The message is quite clear: Do not come. The border is closed. The border is secure," he said. "We are encouraging children not to come, now is not the time to come."

More than 5,000 unaccompanied children are being held in Customs and Border Protection facilities, while being held in custody for an average of 136 hours, nearly twice the 72-hour limit outlined by U.S. law, according to documents obtained by CNN and CBS News.

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Responding to why the Department of Homeland Security seemed unprepared for the arrival of migrants at the border, Mayorkas said the Biden administration is "rebuilding the system" left in place by its predecessor.

"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," he said.

Mayorkas told CNN's State of the Union that the administration established three new facilities, last week and said it would look to provide more "as soon as possible" but did not provide a specific date, citing complications related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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"I have said repeatedly from the very outset that a Border Patrol station is no place for a child and that is why we are working around the clock to move those children out of the Border Patrol facilities and into the care and custody of the Department of Health and Human Services that shelters them," he said.

Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace pressed Mayorkas on why reporters were not permitted to see the conditions the minors were being kept in when he traveled to the border with members of Congress on Friday.

"Let's not forget that we're in the midst of a pandemic," said Mayorkas, adding that there are "hundreds of vulnerable children" at risk of the virus in crowded facilities.

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Wallace suggested that it would not likely pose a problem for a pool reporter and camera crew to safely be permitted to the facility, to which Mayorkas responded that the administration is "working on providing footage so that the American public can see the border patrol stations."

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