- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 2, 2021

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said his department has cut the number of children in Border Patrol custody by nearly 90%, taking a 100-day victory lap even as immigrant rights activists took to the streets around the White House to complain that the Biden administration hasn’t done enough to erase the Trump legacy.

Mr. Mayorkas said the department has moved quickly to “dig out of the cruelty and chaos of the prior administration,” particularly at the border.

He blamed the previous president and the COVID-19 pandemic for the Biden team’s troubles dealing with the unaccompanied children, the most troubling cases of the border surge.

At the peak of the surge in March, 5,700 unaccompanied juveniles were mired in Border Patrol stations and had been there an average of 133 hours, nearly twice the legal limit.

Now, Mr. Mayorkas said, just 677 children are in Border Patrol stations and have been there an average of 20 hours.

The children are still mostly in government custody, in shelters run by the Health and Human Services Department. But even there, the government said it is cutting the time it takes to get the children to relatives — usually illegal immigrants themselves — living in the U.S.

Mr. Mayorkas said the administration is beginning to identify children who remain separated from parents under the Trump administration’s get-tough approach to border security, which involves rebuilding records and tracking down parents in Central America. He said the Biden administration has managed to reunite four of them so far.

“We’re accomplishing the reunification without delay,” he said.

He said the government is working on ways to help the families “heal” from the trauma of the separations.

Michelle Brane, who is leading the task force on reunification, said parents are being admitted into the U.S. through a parole program and the administration is pondering longer-term legal status for them.

She said officials think slightly more than 1,000 children are still separated.

Progress on the children is likely to draw praise from immigrant rights activists, but many of them have been in a foul mood since President Biden last week signaled he was caving on his demand for legislation offering citizenship to all 11 million illegal immigrants.

In his address to Congress on Wednesday, Mr. Biden said he still backed that idea but was aware the issue was struggling to gain enough support on Capitol Hill.

He said Congress should instead tackle bills to legalize illegal immigrant “Dreamers,” those in the U.S. under Temporary Protected Status and farmworkers. That would be less than a third of the full 11 million, according to estimates from the Migration Policy Institute.

Activists rallying on the streets of Washington on Friday and Saturday said Mr. Biden was offering them “crumbs.”

During a protest outside the White House on Friday, more than two dozen activists were arrested in an orchestrated sit-in blocking a White House entrance. May Day marches on Saturday drew hundreds of protesters to the White House and to the headquarters of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“President Biden ended his first 100 days in office with broken promises and insufficient action for my community,” said Gema Lowe. She said she would have been eligible for the full amnesty but doesn’t qualify under the slimmed-down proposals Mr. Biden supports. “We deserve better.”

In Chicago, activists marched not just for the legalization of 11 million immigrants, but also a program to grant amnesty to 2 million people who have been deported.

At a rally Thursday in Georgia to mark 100 days in office, Mr. Biden was interrupted by a protester demanding an end to immigration detention — another item on the wish list of the movement that Mr. Biden has yet to tick off.

Activists list other shortcomings. After promising to increase the number of refugees admitted to 125,000 per year, Mr. Biden has left in place President Trump’s limit of 15,000 — the lowest since the modern refugee system was created four decades ago.

The White House has promised the announcement of an increase this month but said Mr. Biden probably won’t be able to meet the 62,500 target he set in February.

Immigrant rights activists are the loudest voices upset with Mr. Biden at the 100-day mark, but they are not the only ones on the left who say the president has been too timid.

Rep. Jamaal Bowman of New York, who delivered a response to Mr. Biden’s speech from the left for the Working Families Party, said the administration is falling far short. He said the country’s foundation is “one of genocide, capitalist inhumanity and exploitation” and must be torn down and rebuilt.

In a fundraising letter later in the week, Mr. Bowman expanded on his criticism.

“I sincerely believe President Biden wants to make things better. But right now, he’s limiting his proposals to what he thinks Congress can pass — rather than rethinking what’s possible to achieve much-needed change,” he said.

The complaints from the left clash with the view from the right. Conservatives say they are stunned at how far Mr. Biden has tilted toward “socialism” and embraced divisive elements of the cultural battles, particularly on immigration. They say Mr. Biden created the border crisis by nullifying Trump policies and that Homeland Security’s celebration of getting children out of Border Patrol custody rings hollow when more than 22,000 are in HHS shelters.

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