Homeland Security Head Spars With Congress Over Border Surge
President Joe Biden’s head of Homeland Security sparred Wednesday with members of Congress over the surge of migrants at the Southwest border, refusing to concede the situation was a crisis or even much different from what the two previous administrations faced.
Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas gave ground on two Republican points as he acknowledged the administration may not have adequately notified communities chosen to host facilities for migrant teens and children and that some people were released without being tested for COVID-19, though a new testing policy has been implemented.
But Mayorkas, who remained largely unflappable during nearly four hours of often hostile interrogation, repeatedly deflected Republicans who sought to cast the situation along the U.S.-Mexico border as out of control.
"We have a very serious challenge, and I don’t think the difficulty of that challenge can be overstated," Mayorkas said. "We also have a plan to address it. We are executing on our plan and we will succeed.”
It was the first high-profile immigration showdown for the new administration, which is facing political blowback as it copes with the sharp increase in migrants at the same time it attempts to undo some of President Donald Trump's signature actions to reduce both legal and illegal entry.
Republicans contend that the rising number of people attempting to cross the Southwest border have been inspired by Biden's early moves on immigration policy, which have included halting construction on the border wall and ending a program that forced asylum seekers to make their claims in Mexico and Central America.
“This administration’s actions have had a direct cause and effect on this humanitarian and border crisis,” said Rep. Michael McCaul, a Texas Republican.
The number of people caught attempting to cross the border has been rising since April and last month surpassed 100,000, the highest level since before the pandemic and on track to hit a 20-year high.
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