South Dakota won’t accept any illegal immigrants that the Biden administration is looking to relocate from America’s southern border, Gov. Kristi Noem vowed on April 14.
“South Dakota won’t be taking any illegal immigrants that the Biden Administration wants to relocate. My message to illegal immigrants … call me when you’re an American,” Noem wrote in a statement on Twitter.
Her comment comes as media reports that the Biden administration is reaching out to numerous states for assistance on housing illegal immigrants amid the burgeoning crisis at the southern border. The Washington Post has also reported that the Biden administration is considering flying migrant families and children to states near the Canadian border for processing.
Fellow Republican Govs. Henry McMaster of South Carolina, Pete Ricketts of Nebraska, and Kim Reynolds of Iowa said separately in recent weeks that they have declined the administration’s request to accept illegal immigrants into their states. McMaster also signed an executive order that directs the state to prioritize the needs of children in South Carolina and prevent the placement of unaccompanied minors into residential care or foster care facilities in the state.
Noem spokesman Ian Fury told the Des Moines Register on April 14 that the governor hasn’t received a request from the federal government, but was sending a message should such a request be made.
In an attempt to address the surge of unaccompanied minors, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) stated that it’s seeking to build capacity for 13,500 beds, with the potential for additional capacity in order to meet what has been a continuous flow of unaccompanied minors coming across the border. The HHS has opened multiple temporary facilities in the past two weeks.
For the month of March, CBP agents encountered more than 172,000 illegal immigrants, according to statistics released on April 8. That’s a sharp increase from just over 101,000 individuals encountered in February.
Among those who crossed illegally into the United States last month were more than 18,800 unaccompanied minors, double the number who illegally arrived in the United States in February (more than 9,300 encounters). That’s compared to 5,585 unaccompanied minors in January, and 4,993 in December 2020.
A top HHS official has described the surge of illegal border crossings as “unprecedented” and told a federal judge in a sworn declaration that she believes the influx is likely to increase in the “coming weeks and months.”
“As an initial matter, it is important to understand that the current influx is not limited to the January-March time period but is an ongoing challenge that will likely increase in severity in the coming weeks and months,” Cindy Huang, director of HHS’s Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), wrote in her testimony (pdf).
Republicans have argued that the burgeoning crisis is a result of President Joe Biden’s move to overturn several Trump-era immigration policies that had helped to curb the flow of illegal border crossings. This includes his predecessor’s cornerstone Migrant Protection Protocols, which effectively ended the problematic “catch-and-release” policy that significantly stemmed the surge of illegal immigrants that was seen at the southern border in 2019.
In a return to the Obama-era policies that facilitate “catch-and-release,” the Biden administration is again releasing unaccompanied minors into the country. The lawmakers argue that Biden’s act has been interpreted as a signal to prospective migrants to travel to the United States.
“He is the one that opened the borders. He needs to be responsible for this, and he needs to stop it,” Iowa’s Reynolds said on April 8.
Meanwhile, the Biden administration has sought to shift the blame to former President Donald Trump’s administration, with Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas saying that the previous government had “dismantled the orderly, humane, and efficient way of allowing children to make their claims under United States law in their own country.”
It has also sought to downplay the severity of the situation at the border by asserting that the influx was driven by normal seasonal patterns rather than the administration’s new policies.
“It happens every single solitary year. There is a significant increase in the number of people coming to the border in the winter months of January, February, March. It happens every year,” Biden said on March 25.