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DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas weighs in on migrant surge and Delta variant issues during South Texas visit

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Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas held a press conference in Brownsville on Thursday to discuss the situation at the border.

During the press conference, Mayorkas said the Biden administration is working "relentlessly to thwart illegal immigration."

Mayorkas echoed statements by Hidalgo County leaders, acknowledging the increase in COVID-19 cases among migrants, adding that the federal government has a plan to deter migrants from crossing into the country illegally.

Mayorkas confirmed that the COVID-19 Delta variant is creating a more significant issue for the border regions but said the positivity rate among migrants is not higher than that of local communities.

While in South Texas, Mayorkas also visited the emergency shelter for COVID-19 positive migrants in Anzalduas Park. 

"It is the safest way in which we can accomplish that testing and isolation in an outdoor setting," Mayorkas said. "Those individuals are testing positive, and we're working very carefully with Sister Norma."

Mayorkas said he planned to meet with the Director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, Sister Norma Pimentel; if necessary, the federal government is prepared to devote more resources to help the emergency shelter. 

According to Mayorkas, in July 212,862, people were encountered attempting entry along the southwest border. 

More than 45% of July encounters were processed for removal under Title 42, while the rest were under Title 8 for immigration enforcement proceedings.

"The large number of expulsions under title 42 during the pandemic has contributed to a large number of migrants making multiple border crossing attempts," Mayorkas said.

More than a quarter of July encounters were migrants who had crossed into the country before in the last year, prompting the federal government to expulse migrants further into the interior of Mexico in hopes of stopping repeat crossing. 

Mayorkas traveled to South Texas to receive operational updates, engage with the DHS frontline workforce and meet with local officials and community leaders. 

Mayorkas' visit comes after local leaders asked the Biden administration to visit the Rio Grande Valley to see firsthand the increase in migrants. 

U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Laredo) held a press conference earlier Thursday in McAllen following his meeting with Mayorkas. 

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