If it’s seen as preventing all unlawful entries into the United States, as the Secure Fence Act states, then “no administration has ever had operational control,” Alejandro Mayorkas said during a Senate hearing in late March. | Mariam Zuhaib/AP Photo
House Republicans bashed Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas for the Southern border crisis Wednesday, accusing him of “intentionally” allowing the situation to worsen under his leadership.
“You have not secured our borders, Mr. Secretary, and I believe you’ve done so intentionally,” Rep. Mark Green (R-Tenn.), chair of the Homeland Security committee, said in his opening remarks during a budget hearing on the Biden administration’s budget request for DHS. “There is no other explanation for the systematic dismantling and transformation of our border into a lawless and dangerous open border.”
Rep. Dan Bishop (R-N.C.) said “everybody of any reasonable sensibility looks at what you have been saying and what you continue to say, and recognizes that it blinks at reality, and you know it. You’re not delusional. But you are prepared to be dishonest with this Congress repeatedly.”
Harsh words were expected at the hearing. For months, Republicans have vocally criticized Mayorkas for his handling of the border and have called for his removal. DHS’ bill would allow the agency to hire another 1,400 personnel to secure the border and earmark over $800 million for new technology to protect the border and fight fentanyl trafficking.
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At the center of much of the debate was Mayorkas’ previous comments to Congress that the border is secure. Republicans have charged that he lied under oath when he said that to Congress, though Mayorkas said he interprets “operational control” in a different way.
If it’s seen as preventing all unlawful entries into the United States, as the Secure Fence Act states, then “no administration has ever had operational control,” Mayorkas said during a Senate hearing in late March.
Ranking Member Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) said during the hearing that Republicans have acknowledged in the past that the “operational control” definition is “unreachable” or “impossible” to achieve, citing comments made by former committee chairs Peter King and Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas).
“Republicans are criticizing you for not achieving something that no secretary has ever achieved. It seems like their standard changes dependent on the administration,” Thompson said.
Mayorkas, who has visited the border 16 times since taking the post, emphasized during the hearing that the border situation has been an issue for decades and a bipartisan approach is needed to fix the current crisis.
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“If our budget were reduced … it would seriously, gravely harm our ability to apprehend individuals who are attempting to cross our border illegally,” as well as the ability to disrupt drug trafficking, Mayorkas said, adding “this is a challenge that we all have to work together to address. We’re dealing with a broken system and we need reform.”
A DHS spokesperson added in a statement to POLITICO that “instead of pointing fingers and pursuing baseless attacks, Congress should work with the Department and pass legislation to fix our broken immigration system, which has not been updated in over 40 years.”
Democrats attempted to quell the flames by praising Mayorkas for his efforts despite the difficult situation, which several members blamed on the Trump administration.
The Biden administration inherited a DHS that had been “beleaguered by four years of political polarization and mismanagement,” Thompson said. “Among Secretary Mayorkas’ predecessors were so-called leaders, often unqualified and sometimes unlawfully appointed, who did the former president’s bidding.”