The US is defending the response to the rise in migrant children on the southwest border

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© Reuters. Asylum seekers in Penitas, Texas

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Secretary of State for Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas on Tuesday defended the US response to an increase in unaccompanied minors on the southwest border.

Mayorkas said the government is creating a joint processing center to put the children under the care of the Department of Health and Human Services at the age of six and is trying to find additional housing for them.

“The situation we are currently facing on the southwest border is difficult. We are addressing it,” he said in a statement.

President Joe Biden’s administration has sought to expedite processing of hundreds of unaccompanied children who cross the southern border every day.

Officials have warned “the border is not open” saying they are sending back adults and families who have tried to cross the border illegally since Biden took office and promising to reverse some of predecessor Donald Trump’s hardline policies.

Almost 4,300 unaccompanied children were detained by border guards on Sunday, according to an agency official who asked for anonymity to discuss the matter. According to the law, children should be removed from customs and border protection facilities to HHS-run emergency shelters within 72 hours.

“The Border Patrol facilities are overcrowded with children and the 72-hour timeframe for transferring children from Border Patrol to HHS is not always met,” admitted Mayorkas. HHS also didn’t have the ability to record the number of children, he said.

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