July marks the highest monthly number of migrants detained at the US-Mexico border in two decades.
Since October, the US has encountered 845,307 unique individuals, compared with 796,400 during the same period in 2019, when there was a border crisis under the Trump administration.
“We are facing a serious challenge at our southern border, and the challenge is of course made more acute and more difficult because of the Covid-19 pandemic. It has also been made more difficult because of the fact that the prior administration dismantled our asylum system,” Mayorkas said.
The rate of positivity for Covid-19 among migrants is at or lower than the rates in local border communities, he said.
The administration has taken a series of actions to crack down on the flow of migrants to the US southern border. In recent weeks, the Department of Homeland Security has surged resources and personnel to the Rio Grande Valley, which has been overwhelmed by the number of arrivals, deploying Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers to assist Border Patrol, bolstering medical staff, resuming a fast-track deportation procedure for migrant families and setting up flights to send people to other border sectors for processing.
Earlier this week, Mayorkas traveled to Mexico with a US delegation to meet with officials. He cited the trip during his remarks Thursday, underscoring US coordination with Mexico on migration, including, for example, working with the country to increase interdictions.
This month, the Biden administration started flying migrants apprehended at the southern border to the interior of Mexico to try to keep them from attempting to cross the border again. The practice has fielded criticism from immigrant advocates.
“The Biden administration must stop using Trump’s cruel and illegal playbook,” said Eleanor Acer, senior director of refugee protection at Human Rights First, in a statement. “These expulsions are simply ludicrous from a public health perspective, and only confirm that the continued use of Title 42 has nothing to do with public health.”
The Biden administration has been caught between expressing compassion toward migrants and relying heavily on deterring those journeying to the US southern border. As a result, the border situation remains a political liability for the White House that is drawing criticism from both the left and the right.