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Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. Photo: Mark Makela/Getty Images

The U.S. is on-pace to encounter more people at the U.S.-Mexico border "than we have in the last 20 years," Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas wrote in a lengthy statement on Tuesday.

The big picture: The scale of the arrivals represents a budding crisis for President Biden. Mayorkas acknowledged that the arrival of the migrants, including unaccompanied children, at the Southwest border is "difficult," but added that the administration is "making progress and we are executing on our plan."

  • "This is not new," Mayorkas wrote. "We have experienced migration surges before — in 2019, 2014, and before then as well. Since April 2020, the number of encounters at the southwest border has been steadily increasing."

The statement comes as Republicans have criticized the Biden administration for refusing to call the surge a "crisis." Axios previously reported that Biden was briefed on the need for 20,000 additional beds to shelter the children expected to arrive at the border.

Mayorkas noted that Biden has reversed the Trump administration's policy of turning away unaccompanied children because of the public health emergency brought on by the pandemic, and acknowledged that the coronavirus has made it more difficult to house the children.

  • The administration is also bringing in additional personnel to supervise and care for the children, as well as adding facilities to house them in Texas and Arizona, the secretary said.
  • The administration also restarted a program that provides a "lawful pathway for children to come to the United States without having to take the dangerous journey," and is looking for more legal pathways that would not require children to leave their country before being admitted.

What he's saying: "Poverty, high levels of violence, and corruption in Mexico and the Northern Triangle countries have propelled migration to our southwest border for years," Mayorkas said.

  • "The adverse conditions have continued to deteriorate. Two damaging hurricanes that hit Honduras and swept through the region made the living conditions there even worse, causing more children and families to flee."

Go deeper: Why migrants are fleeing their homes for the U.S.

Go deeper

3 hours ago - Health

Meta removes over 600 accounts linked to COVID disinformation effort by China

Facebook's corporate headquarters campus in Menlo Park, California. Photo: Josh Edelson/AFP via Getty Images

Meta announced Wednesday it has removed over 600 Facebook and Instagram accounts linked to a Chinese influence operation that claimed the U.S. was pressuring the World Health Organization (WHO) to blame COVID on China.

Why it matters: Though Meta said the network was unsuccessful, it marks yet another COVID disinformation campaign instigated by China in an effort to discredit the U.S.

Stacey Abrams launches second campaign for Georgia governor

Photo: Eze Amos/Getty Images

Stacey Abrams, voting rights activist and former 2018 candidate for Georgia governor, is running for the position again in 2022. Abrams would be the first Black female governor in the country.

Why it matters: Abrams caught national attention in 2018 by narrowly losing an election to Republican Gov. Brian Kemp in a state held firmly by the GOP for nearly two decades.

First known U.S. case of Omicron variant identified in California

Dr. Anthony Fauci speaks during the daily briefing at the White House on Dec. 1. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

The first known U.S. case of the Omicron variant was detected in California, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed Wednesday.

Driving the news: The confirmed case was detected in a traveler returning from South Africa who was fully vaccinated and has mild symptoms, according to the CDC.