Is Alejandro Mayorkas the most hated bureaucrat in President Joe Biden’s administration? Judging by the way lawmakers in Congress pillory him, the answer very likely could be yes.
This past week, the case against Mayorkas continued to grow as he testified on Capitol Hill on his track record to date of leading the Department of Homeland Security. Mayorkas sat in front of the Senate Homeland Security Committee on Tuesday and its counterpart in the House on Wednesday, and lawmakers grilled him over the immigration crisis on the U.S. southern border.
Mayorkas’ tenure as head of Homeland Security has increasingly incensed Republicans and some Democrats because of his handling of immigration. Under his tenure, the border has sunk into crisis under an unprecedented, sustained surge in illegal immigration.
Last month, encounters between federal authorities and immigrants along the southern border surged 19%, reversing a downward trend since January that the Biden administration had said was evidence of its effective policies. The numbers are trending up again, and next month are widely expected to get significantly worse with the scheduled repeal of Title 42 on May 11.
The historic number of migrants crossing illegally into the U.S. has fueled some alarming trends, such as the sharply rising number of suspected terrorists crossing into the country, the expansion of cartels’ human trafficking operations along the border, and numerous underage migrants working jobs that likely violate child labor laws in the U.S. to pay off their traffickers.
Lawmakers who pushed Mayorkas to answer for those trends and more received administration talking points that largely evaded straight answers and sought to shift blame on a “regional” immigration crisis and the prior administration’s border policies.
“What we are seeing is not exclusive to the southern border. The migration that we are seeing at the southern border is reflective of the level of migration that is gripping the entire hemisphere,” Mayorkas told senators on Tuesday.
Republican lawmakers verbally pummeled the Homeland Security secretary. Even the typically congenial and moderate Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah laughed out of exasperation at Mayorkas’ refusal to give the senator a straight answer.
Romney: I have a question. Can you grade how secure our southern border is? An A through an F?
Mayorkas: Senator, we are dedicating our resources to achieve the maximum possible effect of them.
Romney: Are we succeeding? Is it an A, or a B, a D? … But are you, you’re not willing to give it a grade. I mean, I am. It’s an F. It’s clearly an F.
Josh Hawley, the GOP senator from Missouri, lashed Mayorkas over a recent investigation by The New York Times that uncovered dozens of migrant children working illegally in the U.S. to pay off their trafficking debts.
Hawley: Are you proud of this record?
Mayorkas: Senator, the horrific exploitation of children is something that we do not condone. You are incorrectly attributing it to our policies. Let me share with you –
Hawley: Wait a minute. Wait a minute. It began – look at the numbers. Look at the numbers. It began, this massive surge began when you came to office. In your first year in office, your first year in office there was a 42% surge of unaccompanied children coming across the border. Judging by the way he is treated any time he visits Capitol Hill, the answer is a resounding, yeah, probably.
Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson — at the end of his five-minute questioning — told Mayorkas to resign, a sentiment that has gained traction on Capitol Hill in recent months.
Johnson: You are failing miserably. Four to five million people. At one point, four million gotaways. We have no idea who those people are, what kind of security they risk. You’re not giving me any stats whatsoever in terms of the number of people that are human trafficked, how many young girls are sex trafficked. You don’t even have a clue. You wouldn’t even answer how many dead bodies, which is very well documented, at the border. Do you not care? Do you not have just an ounce of human compassion for what you open border policy, for the type of human depredations it is causing? You just sit there looking with a blank look on your face saying it’s a priority. If it’s a priority, how did we let four to five million people into this country in a little more than two years? Four to five million people. The population of 20 – almost 30 states, and you’re saying this is a priority? Mr. Secretary, you ought to resign.
Mayorkas’ verbal beatings continued the next day in the House as Republicans on the Homeland Security Committee echoed many of the same points of their colleagues in the upper chamber. Committee Chairman and Tennessee Republican Rep. Mark Green began the hearing ripping Mayorkas for telling a “lie under oath” by insisting that the U.S. has “operational control” of the southern border.
Green: You make it very clear, Mr. Secretary, that you’ve known all along, according to the definition that is written in the law passed by the Congress, that you do not have operational control. And yet in testimony to this house under oath – the definition was read to you – you’re asked, according to that definition, whether control exists and you say, ‘Yes.’ That sounds like a lie under oath.
GOP Rep. Clay Higgins of Louisiana spent his five-minute session berating Mayorkas on his record before ending with asking the secretary a single question.
Higgins: We’ve given you ample opportunity to seek some sort of honorable exit from your executive position, sir. We take no pleasure in witnessing you dismantle yourself as a fellow American before the whole country. … It’s stunning that you can sit there and smugly grin as if you have not miserably failed your country. … We’re done, done, done with your lies to America. It’s shameful what you have brought upon our country. Mr. Chairman, I have no interest in asking the secretary any questions because he obfuscates and lies.
One of the most contentious parts of the hearing came during Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s (R-GA) questioning. Her five minutes was cut short and her mic was turned off after she flatly called Mayorkas a liar, a violation of committee rules against impugning a witness’s character.
Greene: How long are you going to continue this outrage, complete outrage where China is poisoning America’s children, poisoning our teenagers, poisoning our young people? How long are you going to let this go on?
Mayorkas: Congresswoman, let me assure you that we’re not letting it go on. We are fighting –
Greene: No, I reclaim my time. You’re a liar. You are letting this go on and the numbers prove it.
While lawmakers in the House have expressed a desire to bring impeachment proceedings against Mayorkas, any effort to remove him from office is likely to die in the Democratic-controlled Senate. While some congressional Democrats have been critical of Mayorkas’ tenure, none have stepped forward to call for his removal.
To the extent that the secretary did “smugly grin” during his questioning, it was likely because Republicans, despite their anger, have little chance of ousting Mayorkas any time soon.