Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas have been told that they may face congressional probes if they can't secure the southern border and reduce the flow of illegal migrants from Venezuela, according to a Republican lawmaker.
In a letter to Mayorkas and Blinken, 14 House Republicans led by Rep. Yvette Herrell (R-N.M.) raise concerns about an increase of Venezuelans coming to the United States via the southern border, particularly to El Paso, Texas.
“If they won't even try to secure our country & end human trafficking, they can explain themselves to Congressional investigations soon,” Herrell wrote.
El PasoAccording to data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, there were nearly 204,000 migrant encounters at the U.S.–Mexico border in August. Among those, 25,349 were from Venezuela, a significant jump from 17,652 encountered in July, and drastically higher than the 6,304 encountered last August.
"El Paso has now become ground zero of the border security crisis facing our country, as Venezuelan migrants have begun to view El Paso as the most hospitable location to illegally cross the U.S. border," the letter says.
The letter was signed by 13 other House Republicans, including Higgins and four lawmakers from Texas—Reps. Mayra Flores, Lance Gooden, Louie Gohmert, and Brian Babin.
The GOP lawmakers noted how U.S. border officials have had difficulty removing migrants in El Paso under the pandemic rule known as Title 42. On one recent day, there were 1,967 apprehensions in El Paso Sector, but only 335 were expelled under Title 42, according to the letter.
“The rest will be released into the public and await a court date, which can take more than two years,” the letter says. “The United States does not have a repatriation agreement with Venezuela, therefore it is nearly impossible for the United States to deport migrants to Venezuela or use Title 42 to return migrants.”
It's more difficult for the United States to send Venezuelans, Nicaraguans, and Cubans back to their countries given that U.S. relations with those nations are strained.
‘Take Every Possible Step’“We call on both of you and your departments to take every possible step to stop illegal migration from Venezuela,” the lawmakers wrote in their letter, referring to Blinken and Mayorkas.
“The United States should work with countries Columbia, Panama, and other Central American nations to establish safe third country agreements and asylum cooperation agreements to allow those countries to receive Venezuelan migrants,” according to the letter.
The lawmakers offered some recommendations to the two administration officials.
"The Department of State should immediately pressure countries along the route from South America to deport those seeking to illegally cross their borders and enter the United States," the letter says.
As for the Department of Homeland Security, the lawmakers asked that it process asylum claims faster, immediately remove those who have been rejected, and grant legitimate asylum claims within a three-week window.
"To accomplish this, DHS must surge resources and allow for migrants to have their cases heard by both CBP officers and asylum officers at Border Patrol and ICE detention facilities," the letter says. "Without fast adjudication, those with legitimate asylum claims will wait years to receive benefits to which they are entitled, and those with invalid asylum claims will never face deportation for breaking our nation’s immigration law and undermining our asylum process."
The lawmakers want Blinken and Mayorkas to answer questions by Oct. 3, including “What efforts are being taken to encourage Mexico, Central American countries, and South American countries to apprehend migrants and deport them before they reach our border?”