Speaking at a Senate hearing on Tuesday, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas blamed the crisis of the surge of illegal immigrants at the southern border on COVID and stated that the Biden administration’s halt to the construction of a wall on the border was based on the belief that the $15 billion that was dedicated to the construction of the border wall was ill-advised.
Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT), referencing the Biden administration’s decision to halt construction of the wall, asked, “Why can’t we make this decision and proceed?”
“Senator, I know that we will not agree on this issue, but the decision with respect to the border wall was not a political decision but a substantive one, that the $15 billion that was dedicated to the construction of the border wall was ill-advised,” Mayorkas answered. “And we can use the government’s funds and taxpayer funds more wisely through investment in innovation through investment in technology. That is a greatest-force multiplier.”
Romney fired back, “Mr. Secretary, the great majority of that money has already been spent, the overwhelming majority, and now there’s some gaps in what’s already been spent. … President Obama’s administration expanded the border barrier. I mean, I’m all in favor of technology but as long as we’ve already paid for it and have contracts to complete the wall, I simply can’t understand any logical reason not to complete it.”
“This just strikes me as being nonsense,” he continued. “I simply don’t understand it. With regard to the comment that we’re going to invest in root causes, I don’t understand what you’re referring to there. Are you suggesting that somehow we should be able to invest to make sure that all of Latin America gets rid of their dictators, gets rid of their corruption, ends violence, and if we do that, maybe there’ll be less people trying to get into the border? That’s unrealistic. That’s, of course, absurd.”
Later Senator Josh Hawley blistered Mayorkas, saying, “I want to just review the record your record in office and the record of this administration to date. Since February, the first full month of the Biden administration, there have been 822,629 illegal crossing attempts encountered by CBP at the southwest border. Every single month of your tenure we’ve seen over 100,000 illegal crossing attempts. Every single month in your tenure illegal crossing attempts have increased. We’ve hit a 20-year record for illegal entries; we hit that last month.”
“We’ve had a surge of young children across the border placing these children in incredible danger and in the line of harm,” Hawley noted. “On a single day in March we had 6,000 children sitting in CBP custody, and including HHS facilities we now have 15,000 migrant children currently in federal custody. In April, the number of deportations carried out by ICE fell to the lowest monthly level on record. Interior arrests by ICE have declined to about 2,500 arrests per month; that’s down from 10,000 arrests per month under the previous administration. And The Washington Post and other news outlets have reported the border patrol totally overwhelmed now by the surge of migrants crossing the border. The cartels are having an easier and easier time smuggling drugs across our border which are going to states like mine which are awash in drugs, awash with drugs from across the border. Mr. Secretary, with all due respect, this record is an unmitigated disaster. It’s a disaster. And I want to ask you to tell us and tell the American people now what you’re going to do to change course.”
Mayorkas insisted that the number of apprehended migrants was exaggerated because migrants turned away came back, stating, “First of all, the number of migrants apprehended at the border began to increase in April of last year. … It’s very important to remember that the number of apprehensions, the number of encounters does not equal the number of different individuals encountered … they often return and are expelled again.”
“Are you saying there has not been a dramatic surge in border crossings and unaccompanied children during your tenure, a historic surge?” Hawley asked. “Is that your position?”
“That is not my position,” Mayorkas replied. “What I am saying is that the number of encounters and apprehensions does not equal the number of different individuals apprehended.”
Speaking of the Biden administration’s “plan,” Mayorkas pontificated, “Let me say this: What makes the plan more challenging is number one, COVID, but we are working through that and our plan addresses that challenge —”
“Wait a minute — COVID was at its height a year ago, Mr. Secretary,” Hawley said incredulously. “With all due respect, we saw none of these numbers a year ago. This crisis has occurred under your tenure. COVID is not unique to your tenure. This is a crisis that you have engineered with your policies.”
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