Members of the House grilled DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas about the security at the southern border, where data shows a record 2.38 million migrant encounters in the last fiscal year.
When asked point blank by Republican Rep. Dan Bishop if he thinks the border is secure, Mayorkas said he thinks it is.
“Yes, and we are working day in and day out to enhance its security, congressman,” Mayorkas responded.
“What I would say is that we see significant criminal threats coming from south of the border — whether it’s guns, drugs, money, violence — we see transnational criminal organizations that send their drugs and street gangs here to distribute it. And that contributes to violent crime here,” FBI director Christopher Wray said.
The hearing was the first time Mayorkas spoke publicly since U.S. Customs and Border Patrol Commissioner Chris Magnus resigned on Nov. 12.
Magnus’ resignation followed reports that Mayorkas told him to either resign or be dismissed.
Under Magnus’ watch, the number of illegal crossings rose to the highest level ever recorded in a fiscal year. In the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, migrants were stopped 2.38 million times, up 37% from the year before, according to newly released figures.
The hearing occurred right before a federal judge blocked a policy — Title 42 — that allowed U.S. officials to turn away migrants at the border, which was most recently applied to Venezuelan migrants.
Title 42 allowed U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents to turn away migrants with the goal of preventing the spread of COVID-19.
DHS said there’s a delay in the judge’s order, so they will continue to enforce immigration laws at the border, releasing a statement that said:
“Title 42 would remain in place for some period. During the period of this freeze, we will prepare for an orderly transition to new policies at the border.”
The National Border Patrol Council, a union representing Border Patrol agents, responded to the news on Twitter.
“A federal judge has just ended Title 42 and the Biden Administration has done absolutely nothing to prepare for this outcome,” the council wrote in the tweet.
Mayorkas defended Title 42 in the hearing, saying it has significantly reduced the number of Venezuelan migrants crossing the border.
He said DHS plans to add 300 more Border Patrol agents for the first time since 2011 and is asking Congress to work out some immigration reforms, especially the asylum system.
Mayorkas will return to Capitol Hill on Thursday to testify in front of the Senate.