“When one is speaking of 7,000 or 7,500 people encountered at the border every day, if one takes a look at that system, it is not built for that in a COVID environment where isolation is required,” Mayorkas announced throughout his comments at the Immigration Law and Policy Conference.
Mayorkas did not define whether the “illness” he was referring to was COVID-19, yet he further stated that he did not expect “the tragic rise of the Delta variant” over recent months.
“We took a step back because of that,” he continued. “I did not expect to be in late September where we are.”
The encampment under the bridge linking Del Rio with Ciudad Acuña, Mexico was cleared Friday, less than a week after roughly 15,000 migrants had gathered there and waited to be picked up by border authorities.
“We did not test that population of individuals,” Mayorkas told reporters at the White House that day. “We do not know — I do not know, I should say, if I may be perfectly accurate — I do not know whether anyone was sick with COVID. We certainly had some individuals get sick, not specifically with COVID, to my knowledge, and we addressed their illnesses.”
Earlier in the week, White House press secretary Jen Psaki defended not asking migrants to be tested or vaccinated for COVID-19, telling reporters that the new arrivals were “not intending to stay here for a lengthy period of time.”
Since deportation flights to Haiti started Sept. 19, the Biden administration has sent 3,936 people back to the Caribbean country, CBS News reported Monday night. Though, thousands more have been allowed to stay in the United States.
Mayorkas told “Fox News Sunday” this past weekend that “about 10,000 or so, 12,000” have been freed pending the hearing of their asylum applications. Another 5,000 had been detained by immigration authorities for processing.
“We will make determinations whether they [the 5,000] will be returned to Haiti based on our public health and public interest authorities,” Mayorkas told host Chris Wallace.
On Monday, Mayorkas updated his assessment of the number of people who will have their cases heard by a judge upward, stating: “The numbers are above the 10,000 to 12,000, just to be clear. It’s about 13,000.”