One-On-One With White House Immigration Adviser: Family Reunifications, Expulsion Of Mexican Minors

A young migrant waits for his turn to take a shower at the Donna Department of Homeland Security holding facility, the main detention center for unaccompanied children in the Rio Grande Valley, in Donna, Texas, Tuesday, March 30, 2021. (AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills, Pool)

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — Implementing new immigration policies while also retaining some Trump-era policies has created successes and challenges for the Biden administration.

The first migrant family reunifications under President Joe Biden are set to take place this week but the administration continues to repatriate unaccompanied migrant children.

U.S. immigration authorities are enforcing Title 42, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention public health order allowing the rapid expulsion of unauthorized migrants, including some families with small children, to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“Look, we continue to be in a global pandemic and therefore we’re continuing to enforce Title 42,” White House assistant press secretary and immigration adviser Vedant Patel told KTSM during a one-on-one interview on Tuesday.

The White House is taking a whole government approach to improve immigration policies and processes, which are being complicated by the volume of migrants seeking entry into the U.S., the pandemic, and capacity issues that U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) facilities.

Change is coming slowly but surely.

“A month ago, children were spending an average of 133 hours in CBP stations,” Patel said. “Today that number is down to 30 hours.”

The Department of Homeland Security shares daily reports on unaccompanied migrants children, including apprehensions, transfers, and discharges that confirm duration time has been significantly reduced.

One caveat is that the figures do not include children from Mexico, who the report says will be repatriated to Mexico and not remain in CBP custody.

In an email to KTSM, CBP spokesman Roger Maier said: “Unaccompanied children are not returned to Mexico but rather processed by CBP and remanded to Health and Human Services and the Office of Refugee Resettlement.”

However, hundreds of unaccompanied Mexican migrant children have been expelled from the U.S., something Patel says aligns with the current directives.

By Erin Coulehan for BORDER REPORT
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