Republicans at the Homeland Security Committee meeting on Tuesday voiced their frustration with the Biden administration’s handling and denial of the severity of the ongoing surge of illegal immigrants coming through the U.S. southern border.
Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-N.J.) told Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas that he and his constituents are tired and angry at the worsening southern border situation, especially since the Biden administration seems to deny the reality of the situation.
“It’s like I’m in Bizarro World. I see it in front of me, you see it in front of you, but some people pretend not to see it, and I don’t mean to be disrespectful to you, sir, but sometimes it seems like you don’t want to see it,” Van Drew said at the hearing Tuesday.
Van Drew told Mayorkas that things are not getting better at the border because there have been close to 1.3 million illegal immigrants apprehended at the border so far this year, and the immediate solution is enacting and enforcing laws, not solving world hunger.
“So really, let’s talk about this. What we’re saying is other countries have severe problems with poverty, education, nutrition, a host of areas. We understand that, but it is naive and arrogant of us to believe that we’re going to fix all that and make that all better—which throughout history we haven’t even been able to do—and then that’s going to stop the big push into the United States of illegal immigration in a timely way. That’s nonsensical,” said Van Drew.
While Van Drew and other Republicans were focused on questioning Mayorkas about the record numbers of illegal immigrants crossing and being released into the United States during the pandemic, Democrats did not share their opinion and even had the opposite view. Rep. Jackson Lee (D-Texas) said the U.S. southern border situation is being exaggerated.
“I think the narrative about immigration is so wrong. First of all, the southern border is 1,954 miles, it is not out of control,” said Jackson Lee at the Sept. 22 hearing on Capitol Hill.
“And also, have you considered this Trump relic of Title 42? Not eliminating, but a suspension of it, in light of the fact that Haitians have been determined to be no national security threat. There are Haitians in my district right now, migrants who have come from NGOs on the border. We welcome them,” said Jackson Lee.
Meanwhile, Ranking Member John Katko (R-N.Y.), who said he prides himself on working and cooperating well with Democrats, cannot overlook the crisis at the border.
“To me, it is unbelievable what is going on at the border, and now we have the deflection about saying Haitians and the border is closed. And now we know the border is not closed because the Haitians—some Haitians have been sent home, some are being sent here, and we don’t know what their distinction is, and that goes for every other type of person coming across the border as well,” said Katko.
Rep. Michael Guest (R-Miss.) cited record-high numbers of illegal migrant encounters at the southern border for the last few months since the Biden administration changed a number of immigration policies meant to reduce the flow of illegal immigrants to the U.S. southern border. According to Customs and Border Patrol (CBP), both July and August of this year had over 200,000 illegal migrants crossing the U.S. southern border with Mexico.
Guest also asked about the statement Mayorkas made during his closed-door meeting with CBP last month, in which he said, “A couple of days ago I was down in Mexico, and I said look, you know, if our borders are the first line of defense, we’re going to lose and this is unsustainable.” The leaked audio file of Mayorkas’s comments was obtained by Fox News in August.
Mayorkas defended his earlier remarks by saying the southern border is not the United States’ first line of defense against illegal entry.
“In fact, I did make the statement, and a very important fact underlying it is that our border is not our first line of defense. We have a multi-layered strategy that includes our partners to the south—not only Mexico, but the countries of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador,” said Mayorkas. “So, in fact, our border is not our first line of defense. It’s a statement that I made and I stand by it. And in fact, it does not reflect the strategy that we have been employing and executing.”
Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) said he is worried about the border but more concerned about domestic terrorists because someone attacked his Missouri congressional office recently.
“Let me go a little bit further and say that I am very much concerned about people crossing our borders, but I’m more concerned about the fact that we are a nation that is simply crossed, and it is very disturbing,” said Cleaver.
Rep. Lou Correa (D-Calif.) meanwhile argued that even if all U.S. borders and ports of entry were sealed off, there would still be deaths from drug addiction.
“I agree with my colleagues that fentanyl is a major issue. But I would propose to all of you that if you seal off the southern border, you seal off the northern border, you seal off the ports of entry, we’re still going to have that major issue, which is a medical issue called drug addiction, in our country,” said Correa, adding, “That’s not really a homeland security issue. It’s a societal issue, but we’re going to expect you to stop drug addiction at the border.”