DHS Secretary Mayorkas in Fiery Exchanges With GOP Lawmakers at Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing

DHS Secretary Mayorkas in Fiery Exchanges With GOP Lawmakers at Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas testifies before a House Appropriations Subcommittee in Washington on April 27, 2022. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)
Jeff Louderback

Engaging in fiery exchanges with Republican lawmakers about the southern border crisis, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas testified at a Senate Judiciary Committee oversight hearing on March 28.

Mayorkas appeared before the panel a week after DHS launched Operation Blue Lotus, a strategy designed to curtail the volume of fentanyl flooding into the United States.

Illegal immigrant encounters along the U.S.–Mexico border have soared to record highs since Mayorkas was sworn in as DHS secretary in February 2021. The number rose to about 250,000 in December 2022 and was reported at 155,000 in February.

Customs and Border Protection seized a record-high 2,900 pounds of fentanyl along the southern border in November 2022. Three years ago, border agents were seizing about 380 pounds of fentanyl every month.

Venezuelan citizens cross the Simón Bolívar International Bridge from San Antonio del Táchira in Venezuela to Norte de Santander province in Colombia on Feb. 10, 2018. (George Castellanos/AFP/Getty Images)
Venezuelan citizens cross the Simón Bolívar International Bridge from San Antonio del Táchira in Venezuela to Norte de Santander province in Colombia on Feb. 10, 2018. (George Castellanos/AFP/Getty Images)
During the first week of Operation Blue Lotus, there were 16 federal arrests, two state arrests, and 18 seizures that prevented more than 900 pounds of fentanyl from crossing into the United States, DHS reported.

‘Regulations Are Working’

Biden announced in January that under a COVID-19 pandemic rule that aims to minimize the spread of the virus and prevent illegal immigrants from seeking asylum, Mexico would take back Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans, and Venezuelans. The Biden administration agreed to allow up to 30,000 people from those countries entry into the United States on humanitarian parole if they find a financial sponsor, apply online, or arrive at an airport.

Mayorkas said the reduced number of illegal immigrants in February shows that Biden’s regulations are working.

Overall, border patrol agents have encountered more than 4.8 million illegal immigrants at the U.S.–Mexico border since Mayorkas took office.

Border authorities reported 11 terror watchlist encounters on the southern border between 2017 and 2020. Last year, they said the figure escalated to 98.

“You want to fix this, Mr. Secretary? Go back to Trump policies. Just reimpose everything Donald Trump did to secure the border, and your problem will dramatically be improved,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said. “You change policies in a bad way, and you’re getting a bad result. We’re under attack by drug cartels. We’ve lost operational control of the border.

“The Secretary has said numerous times we have control of the border. The head of the Border Patrol about a couple of weeks ago said we don’t have operational control of the border. Anybody who believes that we’re in control of the border is in denial. We’ve lost control of our border. The number of people coming across our border on the terrorist watch list is going up like a rocket.

“Look what’s happened. And you know how it happened? You took all the policies that were working, and you changed them, and it’s blown up in our face.”

Most of the fentanyl that’s detected enters the United States through illegal border crossings and isn’t brought in through the ports of entry, Mayorkas said.

Last week, the Border Patrol chief agent in Tucson, Arizona, John Modlin, told Congress that the illegal immigrants are used by cartels to distract agents.

Mayorkas told lawmakers that he didn’t know that cartels use illegal immigrants to cross into the United States from Mexico and sneak in contraband.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) in Washington on Dec. 5, 2022. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) in Washington on Dec. 5, 2022. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)
The admission sparked a contentious debate with Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas).

Debate About Cartels

Cornyn told Mayorkas that during testimony to Congress earlier this month, Attorney General Merrick Garland acknowledged the cartels’ strategy.

“You have no idea how many of those people were carrying fentanyl or other drugs with them, do you?” Cornyn said.

“Senator, the expert view that I received is that approximately 90 percent of the fentanyl ...” Mayorkas responded before Cornyn interjected.

The senator said, “That’s a totally made-up number, Mr. Secretary. You know it. That’s a totally made-up number.”

Mayorkas said, “Senator, the expert information that I received is that approximately 90 percent of the fentanyl is brought in through the ports of entry, through passenger vehicles, through trucks, and through pedestrians.”

Cornyn asked, “Mr. Secretary, you understand that you have a credibility problem with the Congress and with the American people, don’t you?”

Mayorkas said, “I have unflinching confidence in the integrity of my conduct.”

Cornyn responded, “You said we do have operational control of the border in 2022. You said the border is not, in fact, open. And then I think I heard you say here that no administration has ever had operational control of the border. Isn’t that what you said?”

Mayorkas replied, “No. That is not what I said.”

Cornyn said “4.8 million people” arrived at the border and were “ushered into the interior of the United States, perhaps never to be identified or heard from again.”

“And with 108,000 Americans dying of drug overdoses last year alone with those drugs flooding across the border, you think everything is just hunky dory?” he said.

Mayorkas answered, “That is absolutely not true, Senator. No, I understand that.”

‘A Significant Challenge’

Multiple times during his testimony, Mayorkas called fentanyl “a significant challenge” that was a problem before the Biden administration took office.

The Biden administration has “operational control” of the border, according to his own definition, Mayorkas said. He defined having operational control as “maximizing the resources that we have to deliver the most effective results.”

“The Border Patrol agents and all the personnel of the Department of Homeland Security are doing heroic work in that regard,” the secretary said.

A heated exchange took place when Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) immediately confronted Mayorkas.

“Is there a crisis at our southern border?” he demanded to know.

Mayorkas responded that “there’s a very significant challenge,” before Cruz interjected.

“Yes or no. Is there a crisis?” Cruz asked.

Mayorkas replied, “I believe I’ve addressed that question.”

Cruz asked, “So, you’re refusing to answer?”

Mayorkas said, “Senator, there is a very significant challenge.”

‘Yes or No’

Cruz reminded Mayorkas of what Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz testified “in a sworn deposition in July of 2022” when asked if there was a crisis at the southern border.

He responded with one word—“Yes,” Cruz said.

“Has the crisis at our southern border made Americans less safe? Yes or no?” Cruz asked.

Mayorkas, avoiding a yes or no response, started to answer before Cruz interrupted.

“I don’t want a discourse. It’s a yes or no question,” Cruz said.

“Senator, we have a challenge,” Mayorkas replied before Cruz interjected again.

“Let me show you how someone doing his job answers a question in a straightforward manner,“ Cruz said, referring back to the Border Patrol Chief’s testimony. ”‘Chief Ortiz, is the crisis that is currently ongoing at the southern border making the border less safe for Americans and aliens alike?’ Answer: ‘Yes’—one word, one syllable, three letters. That’s how someone answers a question and does their job.

“You’re being a politician misleading the American people. Let me give you a chance again. Is the crisis at the southern border making Americans less safe, yes or no?”

When Mayorkas tried to respond without a “yes” or “no,” Cruz moved on to the next question.

Throughout the rest of the exchange, Mayorkas refused to offer “yes” or “no” answers, and Cruz chastised him.

“It’s obvious you’ve been instructed to stonewall, so I’m not gonna let you. You don’t get to stonewall and filibuster,” Cruz said.

Near the conclusion of Cruz’s questioning, he asked, “Mr. Secretary, how many children have been sold into sex slavery under your administration?

“Mr. Secretary, I want to say to you right now, your behavior is disgraceful, and the deaths of assaulted children, they are at your feet. If you had integrity, you would resign.”

Mayorkas was given one minute to speak after Cruz finished his remarks. He responded that what Cruz said was “revolting.”

“I’m not going to address it,” Mayorkas said.

Cruz said, “Your refusal to do your job is revolting.”

Republicans have repeatedly called for Mayorkas to step down. Two House members, Rep. Pat Fallon (R-Texas) and Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), introduced articles of impeachment against the Homeland Security secretary.

Fallon’s impeachment inquiry included charges of participating in a pattern of conduct that’s “incompatible with his duties,” giving false and misleading testimony to Congress, and “knowingly” slandering Border Patrol agents.

The impeachment articles from Biggs accuse Mayorkas of “the systematic destruction of the geographical integrity of the United States of America.”

The articles of impeachment were sent to the House Judiciary Committee.

Mayorkas has repeatedly said he won’t resign.

Jeff Louderback covers news and features on the White House and executive agencies for The Epoch Times. He also reports on Senate and House elections. A professional journalist since 1990, Jeff has a versatile background that includes covering news and politics, business, professional and college sports, and lifestyle topics for regional and national media outlets.
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