WASHINGTON– Senators criticized top Biden officials for loose borders and increasing global violence in a combative hearing Tuesday of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, was among several senators who blasted Alejandro N. Mayorkas, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, for the large increase in migrants crossing the border.
“If that were my record, I would resign in shame or I would have fashioned a piece of legislation designed to solve that problem and worked like crazy to get it passed,” Romney said.
Mayorkas said Congress could help mitigate the problem by allocating more federal funding to border security.
“We are dealing fundamentally with a broken immigration system and the additional funding, which is critically needed, is a tourniquet,” Mayorkas said.
At an annual hearing, “Threats to the Homeland,” senators focused on border security, terrorist groups, unrest in the Middle East and rising antisemitism. Senators of both parties expressed concerns regarding the spread of fentanyl to the U.S. through the southern border and the need for a resolution to the migrant crisis.
While defending their policies, Biden administration officials agreed that these are difficult times, both domestically and internationally.
“We should wake up. It is a time to be concerned; we are in a dangerous period,” FBI Director Christopher A. Wray told the senators.
Mayorkas and Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., had a heated exchange when Hawley criticized Mayorkas for pro-Palestinian posts made by an employee of the Department of Homeland Security. Mayorkas explained that the employee had been placed on administrative leave and details of the situation could not be shared.
“Quite frankly, Mr. Secretary, I think that your performance is despicable, and I think the fact that you are not willing to provide answers to this committee is absolutely atrocious,” Hawley said.
Mayorkas took the accusations personally, calling upon his family’s heritage in response.
“Perhaps he [Hawley] doesn’t know my own background, perhaps he does not know that I am the child of a Holocaust survivor. Perhaps he does not know that my mother lost almost all her family at the hands of the Nazis,” Mayorkas said.
Sen. Laphonza Butler, D-Calif., argued against claims that migrants are to blame for spiking rates of fentanyl deaths in the U.S., stating instead that U.S. citizens are smuggling the drug into the country.
“The Cato Institute published a report in August 2023 noting that the United States and United States citizens make up 89% of all convictions of fentanyl drug trafficking crimes compared to 8.9% of unauthorized immigrants. This year, less than 1% of the people arrested at the border for making unlawful crossings possessed any fentanyl whatsoever,” Butler said.
Mayorkas’ written testimony states that the Department of Homeland Security needs more funding in order to decrease the spread of fentanyl. His testimony also defended the administration’s record on migrants.
“Since May 12, 2023, we have removed or returned over 336,000 individuals, including more than 50,000 individual family unit members. This compares to 225,000 removals and enforcement returns during the same period in 2019, which was the comparable pre-pandemic and pre-Title 42 period,” according to the testimony.
A common thread amongst witnesses and senators was worry for the future in the midst of increasing global violence.
Sen. Roger Marshall, R-Kan., predicted that issues of national security would likely play a major role in the 2024 elections.
“I believe the defining issue in this next election is going to be exactly this: Are our families safer today than they were three years ago?” he said.