Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas visited South Texas migrant tent city, child detention facilities

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Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas visited South Texas on Saturday, March 6, 2021, with a White House contingency, a South Texas lawmaker told Border Report.

McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas led a contingency of White House officials to South Texas to visit the U.S./Mexico border this weekend, a congressman confirmed Sunday night to Border Report.

Mayorkas, along with 13 others on Saturday traveled to deep South Texas on the Southwest border and visited a tent facility in the town of Donna, Texas, about 20 miles east of McAllen, where undocumented migrants are processed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. They then flew to Laredo and drove to a detention facility in Carrizo Springs, Texas, where undocumented teen migrants are held, U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, told Border Report.

Cuellar is vice chairman of the House Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee and his hometown is Laredo. He represents a large swath of South Texas, but he said that no local leaders were part of the White House tour.

Earlier Sunday, the White House issued a statement acknowledging that Mayorkas on Saturday led a delegation of White House officials and leaders from the Department of Health and Human Services to the Southwest border “as part of the administration’s commitment to restoring order and humanity to our immigration system,” the statement read.

But, the White House did not divulge exactly where they went.

Traveling with Mayorkas were:

  • Susan Rice, White House domestic policy advisor 
  • Liz Sherwood-Randall, deputy national security advisor
  • Julie Rodriguez, director of the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs
  • Julissa Reynoso, chief of staff to the First Lady
  • Norris Cochran, Acting Secretary of Health and Human Services
  • Esther Olavarria, White House deputy assistant to the President for Immigration
  • Katie Tobin, National Security Council senior director for Transborder Security
  • Erin Pelton, White House senior advisor to the Domestic Policy Advisor
  • Pili Tobar, White House Deputy Communications Director
  • Jennifer Higgins, DHS associate director for Refugee, Asylum and International Operations
  • Marsha Espinosa, DHS assistant secretary for Public Affairs
  • Jooyeun Chang, HHS Administration for Children and Families head
  • Cindy Huang, HHS Office of Refugee and Resettlement head

The group visited a DHS Border Patrol facility and a Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement facility, the White House confirmed in a statement.

The tent facility is located in the rural and remote town of Donna and opened last month. It was built to help with an overflow of a surge of migrants who have come to the border since President Joe Biden took office. The soft-sided facility is where migrants are being processed as renovations are being done to the main McAllen Border Patrol processing center.

The tent facilities cost $18.2 million, according to CBP documents obtained by Border Report.

After visiting the Donna facility, Mayorkas and the group also visited a facility in Carrizo Springs, about 80 miles north of Laredo. The Carrizo Springs facility holds teens ages 13-17 and is operated by Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement facility.

In touring these facilities, the group glimpsed what life is like for unaccompanied migrant children who come to the United States and are then taken under the care of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

“During the visit, senior administration officials received operational briefings, updates, and tours of the facilities. They discussed capacity needs given the number of unaccompanied children and families arriving at our border, the complex challenges with rebuilding our gutted border infrastructure and immigration system, as well as improvements that must be made in order to restore safe and efficient procedures to process, shelter, and place unaccompanied children with family or sponsors,” the White House said.

In addition, they studied how to alter current immigration policies “to ensure the fair and humane treatment of immigrants, the safety of the workforce, and the wellbeing of communities nearby in the face of a global pandemic,” the statement said.

Biden will be briefed by participants, the White House said.

Border Report requested to tour the Carrizo Springs facility and was told no media are allowed at this time.

Sandra Sanchez can be reached at Ssanchez@borderreport.com.

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The mission of BorderReport.com is to provide real-time delivery of the untold local stories about people living, working and migrating along the U.S. border with Mexico. The information is gathered by experienced and trusted Nexstar Media Group journalists hired specifically to cover the border.