Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas issued an urgent plea on Tuesday to the scores of migrants surging into the country across the U.S.-Mexico border: Don't come now, but wait a while and then come later.
The secretary's mixed message comes as unprecedented numbers of migrants continue to illegally enter the country in hopes of receiving more lenient treatment from the Biden administration. Mayorkas himself acknowledged earlier Tuesday that the U.S. government is "on pace to encounter more individuals on the southwest border than we have in the last 20 years," though he still refused to characterize the situation as a crisis.
"We are building the capacity to address the needs of [unaccompanied migrant] children when they arrive but we are also, and critically, sending an important message that now is not the time to come to the border," Moyorkas said Tuesday during an interview on ABC's "Good Morning America."
"Give us time," he continued, "to build an orderly, safe way to arrive in the United States and make the claims that the law permits you to make."
The remarkable statement appeared to befuddle host George Stephanopoulos, who noted, "You've been saying, 'Don't come now,' but that message does not appear to be getting through ... does the message have to be, 'Don't come, period'?"
Mayorkas responded by reiterating the message, though this time casting blame on the administration of former President Donald Trump.
"Do not come now," he said. "Give us time to rebuild the system that was entirely dismantled in the prior administration."
Homeland Security Secretary speaks on growing border crisis l GMA youtu.be
In characterizing his message as one of humanitarian concern, Mayorkas told a story during the interview about three young children, each under the age of 10, who were permitted entry into the country but whose mother died along the way. The secretary pleaded with potential migrants not to make the "dangerous journey" until a later time.
But it's not only the journey itself that is dangerous, but the lack of preparedness by the Biden administration to handle the rapid influx. Even as Mayorkas spoke, thousands of migrant children experienced the harsh conditions of being cooped up in cage-like cells, many having to take turns sleeping on the floor and go without showering for days.
Surge facilities designed to house minors who cross the border without their parents or a legal guardian are already operating above capacity, and things aren't expected to slow down any time soon.
It remains to be seen if the Biden administration's "wait until later" message succeeds in slowing down the historic surge. But given the fact that the administration has been articulating exactly that for weeks to no avail, it's not likely.