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Mayorkas gives strongest clue yet that Biden administration hopes to stop detaining migrant families

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In the strongest indication yet that the Biden administration hopes to stop detaining migrant families, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told NBC News Thursday that a detention center is “not where a family belongs.”

Currently, migrant parents who cross the border illegally with their children are placed in Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention centers, under a court-ordered maximum of 20 days, a process started under the Trump administration. However, some have waited months, even over a year, as they fought orders of deportation. NBC News has previously reported that the Biden administration was planning to cut the number of families in ICE detention drastically, and has already released many families who under Trump had declined release until they could be reunited with their children.

In an exclusive interview with NBC News Thursday, Mayorkas was asked whether he agreed with a tweet President Biden made during his campaign, which said: “Children should be released from ICE detention with their parents immediately” and whether he could commit to ending family detention.

Mayorkas did not address the questions directly, instead giving a one-sentence answer: “A detention center is not where a family belongs.”

Mayorkas also told NBC News that even some of those immigrants expelled from the U.S. under authority invoked by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention should have the right to stay in the U.S. while seeking asylum.

The Trump administration used that authority, known as Title 42. to rapidly deport all asylum seekers, even unaccompanied children, without giving them the right to due process in the U.S.

Mayorkas said that the Trump administration had “operated from a point of cruelty” and had “dismantled” the asylum system in its entirety. He said he would need to see it rebuilt before all asylum seekers could be processed in a way that does not impact public health.

“I believe asylum seekers, individuals who claim credible fear by reason of their membership in a particular social group, should have the opportunity to present those claims to U.S. authorities,” Mayorkas said. “And they should be able to present those claims in an orderly effecient and safe way and in a way that does not actually imperil their public health nor the health of the American communities they seek to enter.”

The Biden administration stopped sending children back across the border, but still uses Title 42 to expel many families and single adults.

“We are executing the directive of the CDC,” Mayorkas said. “It has made a determination that Title 42 authority should be employed to address the public health needs of not only the American public but of the migrants themselves.”

Mayorkas also said his agency is planning to build additional facilities to accommodate the surge in unaccompanied migrant children crossing the border. Recently, Customs and Border Protection opened a tent facility to accommodate the rising numbers of children in their custody.

NBC News reported that more than 625 children have been held in Border Patrol custody over the 72 hour legal limit and the administration projects 117,000 unaccompanied children could cross the border this year, far surpassing previous records.

“We are looking at a number of different types of shelters that are required in the best interest of the children and to address the public health imperative of the American people,” Mayorkas said. “We understand the sigificance of the number of children. It speaks to the fact that there is quite frankly pent-up desperation from three countries that have suffered so much violence, so much poverty and other adverse conditions.”

Mayorkas recently appointed the executive director of the task force that will seek to reunify migrant families separated by the Trump administration.

Asked if there would be a “holistic investigation into potential criminality of the Trump administration” for their role in family separation, Mayorkas said, “I haven’t excluded anything, but what I am focused on right now is reuniting the families.”

Late Tuesday, DHS and the FBI sent out a joint intelligence bulletin warning some domestic violent extremists had discussed plans to take control of the U.S. Capitol on March 4.

Asked whether DHS would change any of its operations to thwart the threat of domestic terrorism, Mayorkas said, “We’re going to change our posture as the intelligence and information dictate. That’s what we do.”

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On immigration, the confusion is coming from inside the White House

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President Joe Biden appears to be confounded by the substance and politics of immigration.

The latest evidence of that is Friday’s laughable-if-it-wasn’t-so-serious White House backtrack of Biden’s walk-back on refugee policy. After promising to raise President Donald Trump’s annual cap on refugee admissions from 15,000 to 62,500, Biden balked on Friday morning. Then, under heavy pressure from fellow Democrats — many of whom had described Trump’s policy as racist, xenophobic and un-American — Biden decided on Friday afternoon to increase the number of refugees admitted into the country.

How many? “His initial goal of 62,500 seems unlikely,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement issued late Friday. The policy, she said, “has been the subject of some confusion.”

That confusion is coming from inside the White House.

It is the result of a much larger conundrum for Biden: finding the safe harbor spot on immigration that satisfies his base and doesn’t alienate centrist voters. He’ll never win over hard-line conservatives whose views are represented by a new Anglo-Saxon caucus in the House or more temperate conservatives who prioritize restrictive immigration policies.

But even if he doesn’t seek re-election in 2024, he needs both wings of his own coalition to move his agenda and keep Congress in Democratic hands in next year’s midterm elections.

So far, Biden is not just failing to please everyone; he’s having a hard time pleasing anyone. Less than a quarter of adults approve of his handling of immigration, according to an AP-NORC poll released last week, and the share of Democrats who view illegal immigration as “a major problem” has spiked from 15 percent to 29 percent in the last year, according to the Pew Research Center.

“It’s easy to promise a quick fix in a campaign, but the reality of the situation is it’s a mess and they don’t know how to address it,” a senior Senate Republican aide said of the broader issue. The back-and-forth over the refugee cap “is less an indictment of policy and more a highlight of how complex and difficult this issue is,” the aide added.

While the refugee policy limits legal rather than illegal immigration, Democratic lawmakers and immigrant-rights advocates are eager to see changes across the board after Trump cracked down on both forms of migration.

Biden’s stumbles on the issue come at a time when a surge of migrants to the U.S.-Mexico border has forced officials to house children in overcrowded facilities and forced Biden to reconsider his vow to allow asylum-seekers to await adjudication of their cases in the U.S.

Given that Biden’s overall approval ratings remain squarely on positive turf — roughly between 54 percent and 59 percent, depending on the poll — sentiments on his handling of immigration could be insignificant to his standing or a harbinger of trouble ahead. His skittish approach to the issue suggests more concern about the latter than confidence about the former.

Before taking office, Biden said he wanted to reverse Trump’s immigration policies but would set up “guardrails” to ensure that he didn’t act rashly in a way that “complicates what we’re trying to do.” He issued an executive order creating a review of Trump’s policies shortly after being sworn in, but has thus far left many of them in place.

Until Friday, Biden’s Democratic allies had been reserved in their criticism of his moves, hopeful that he will ultimately implement an immigration agenda that more closely approximates campaign-trail rhetoric envisioning “an immigration system that powers our economy and reflects our values.” Then the dam broke with news of his initial decision to leave the Trump refugee cap in place.

“Say it ain’t so, President Joe,” Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said in a statement. “This Biden Administration refugee admissions target is unacceptable.”

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., a leader of House progressives, accused Biden of having “broken his promise to restore our humanity” and called the 15,000 cap “harmful, xenophobic and racist.”

One Latino-rights advocate who has been in discussions with White House officials on immigration policy told NBC News last month that the administration did not appear to have a plan on the issue. The advocate spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid angering allies in the White House. But activists have had to lean on their faith in Biden’s intent to reverse Trump’s policies as they wait for action.

Democratic officials’ response to the initial refugee cap decision is a sign that their patience is fleeting.

“We can’t allow refugees and asylum-seekers to sit and suffer because of Washington politics,” Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro said. “I’m glad the administration has reversed course on lifting the refugee cap. It should be done immediately and up to the target promised.”

Biden’s timidity reflects confusion over how to line up his stated policy goals with his political interests.



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Tories braced for loss of 550 council seats at 'Super Thursday' local elections

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SENIOR Tories are braced for a loss of 550 council seats at the “Super Thursday” local elections next month.

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End reliance on EU! UK must become self-reliant to avoid being at bloc's mercy on vaccines

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THE recent vaccine wrangle underlines why the UK must also end its reliance on goods imported from the EU, Brexiteer Jayne Adye has said.

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