Biden's Homeland Security Nominee Noncommittal on Dismantling or Expanding Border Wall

Biden's Homeland Security Nominee Noncommittal on Dismantling or Expanding Border Wall
Alejandro Mayorkas testifies during his confirmation hearing in the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee in Washington on Jan. 19, 2021. (Joshua Roberts/AFP via Getty Images)
Bill Pan

Homeland Security Secretary nominee Alejandro Mayorkas wouldn't say if he's planning to dismantle or expand the barrier built along the U.S.-Mexico border by the Trump administration.

Mayorkas, who headed the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and served as deputy secretary of Department of Homeland Security (DHS) during the Obama administration, testified Tuesday before a panel of senators about his stances on immigration, border enforcement, cybersecurity, and his previous service.

During the conformation hearing, Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) asked Mayorkas whether he believed the border wall constructed by the Trump administration should be torn down. Mayorkas replied that he agreed with the late Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) that the border is not a "monolithic challenge."

"The border is varied depending on the geography, depending on the specific venue and depending on the conduct of individuals around it and we don’t need, nor should we have a monolithic answer to that varied and diverse challenge," Mayorkas said.

When asked whether he believed that the border wall should be extended into certain areas, Mayorkas again said he would "look forward to studying that."

"I look forward to studying that because I am aware of the challenges that the border presents, I am very well aware of the fact…that traffickers are seeing to exploit the border and not only to move people across it illegally, but to move contraband, to move fentanyl, the narco traffickers have sought to exploit the current challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic, and I look forward to studying the border to make sure those challenges are repelled," Mayorkas said.

The exchange comes as the U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced the Trump administration had completed its goal of 450 miles of new border wall by the end of 2020, and that the agency has received enough Congressional funding for the wall's further expansion.

Mark Morgan, the CBP's acting commissioner, said earlier this month in a press call that Congress has set aside $1.375 billion for the project, which would allow his agency to finish 738 miles in total.

"It represents a historic accomplishment by this administration," Morgan said. "It doesn't just stand tall as a simple reminder of promises made to the American people and promises kept, but it stands as a reminder of our unwavering commitment to do everything we can to ensure we have the tools to protect our national and economic security. It should serve to remind us all that borders matter and failure to secure them have consequences for every town, city, and state in this great nation."