DHS Secretary defends border policies under intense grilling from GOP lawmakers

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Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas connected Wednesday faced fiery pushback from Republican lawmakers connected the House Appropriations Committee portion defending the Biden administration's borderline policies, up of the planned termination of the Trump-era pandemic policy, Title 42, connected May 23. 

GOP Rep. Clay Higgins of Louisiana said Mayorkas would beryllium impeached if Republicans retake the House successful November. 

"You've been called upon to resign. Next year, if we person the bulk successful this committee, which we shall, you'll look impeachment," Higgins said, during Wednesday's hearing. "Own this thing. Out of respect for you and the office, I inquire you to bespeak upon that." 

Mayorkas told lawmakers helium had inherited a "broken and dismantled strategy that is already nether strain." 

"It is not built to negociate the existent levels and types of migratory flows," Mayorkas said. "Only Congress tin hole this."

House Homeland Security Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas testifies earlier the House Committee connected Appropriations I Subcommittee Homeland Security Committee during a proceeding connected Fiscal Year 2023 Budget Request for the Department of Homeland Security connected Capitol Hill successful Washington, Wednesday, April 27, 2022. Jose Luis Magana / AP

DHS is preparing for the extremity of the CDC's nationalist wellness authority, Title 42, which permits DHS to swiftly expel definite migrants passim the COVID-19 pandemic, without processing their asylum claims. In a 20-page memo earlier this week, Mayorkas outlined a six-part strategy: surging unit and resources to the confederate border; expanding migrant processing capacity; deportating, detaining oregon prosecuting immoderate migrants; securing assistance from borderline organizations, cracking down connected quality smugglers and deterring migration crossed the Western Hemisphere. 

Mayorkas confirmed for the archetypal clip that DHS consulted with CDC anterior to the repeal of Title 42, arsenic is required by law.  

"The bounds of my consultation that I provided information to the CDC were with respect to the fig of encounters, the fig of individuals that a borderline patrol installation tin house, however galore radical we were lodging astatine a peculiar clip and information with respect to what we were experiencing astatine the border," Mayorkas clarified. "I americium not a nationalist wellness expert, nor did I supply nationalist wellness advice."

Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin of Michigan, meanwhile, took uncommon purpose astatine her ain party, successful summation to GOP leadership, for the bipartisan nonaccomplishment to walk migration reform. Slotkin, a erstwhile CIA serviceman and Pentagon official, called the Southwest borderline "the past edifice to support ourselves."

"Until we get astatine the basal of the problem, we are going to person twelvemonth aft twelvemonth of these horrible pictures of our borderline officials having to beryllium overwhelmed and of migrants seeking a amended beingness surviving successful atrocious conditions," Slotkin continued. "Two years ago, each 1 of america connected this committee voted connected a $4.5 cardinal supplemental. We sent active-duty subject to the border, successful summation to the Guard, and we enactment radical successful cages and separated them from their children successful bid to marque borderline argumentation thing antithetic than it was," she continued, citing the Trump-era argumentation of separating families. "Now we let radical to travel into the country, and they spell off, and we person nary thought whether they're ever going to amusement up successful a courtroom again. Neither of those policies makes immoderate sense."  

Mayorkas added Wednesday that helium has greenlit astir 68 borderline partition projects, utilizing the $2.5 cardinal antecedently appropriated by Congress nether the Trump medication to conception a obstruction on the U.S.-Mexico border.  

"And we are good alert of our work to walk the funds that person been appropriated to the wall," Mayorkas said astatine a  House subcommittee hearing. "And we are undertaking an investigation of however astir efficaciously to bash truthful portion honoring the president's commitment. We are dedicated to spending those funds successful a mode that enhances information and security." 

Mayorkas testified for much than 2 hours earlier the House Appropriations Department of Homeland Security subcommittee hearing. His grounds continued successful the afternoon. 

The caput said the bulk of borderline partition projects remainder successful the jurisdiction of the Army Corps of Engineers. But Mayorkas told lawmakers that the outgo of discontinuing DHS-controlled borderline partition projects is astir $72 million. 

Republican Rep. John Rutherford of Florida pressed Mayorkas astir what has changed DHS argumentation since the announced termination of Title 42. 

"I deliberation if you inquire astir apt two-thirds of the country, they'll archer you, the borderline is not secure," Rutherford said. "And truthful my question is, present we're astir to assistance Title 42. And I don't perceive a program to code that. These things, you've already implemented. These things are determination now. What is going to alteration successful effect to Title 42?" 

Mayorkas responded urgently, but without overmuch detail: "We are preparing, and person been preparing. We are implementing our plans. We are gathering further. We are intensifying our efforts. We are expanding our efforts and enhancing them. We are not done." 

Amid reports that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) could tally retired of wealth by July, Mayorkas told the House Appropriations Committee that DHS is preparing to reprogram funds, but has not yet requested further resources. 

"We are besides preparing – should reprogramming not beryllium capable – to petition the supplemental," Mayorkas told lawmakers. "We person not reached that point. We are going to effort to debar that to the champion of our abilities."  

Representative Henry Cuellar, who represents a borderline territory successful South Texas, grilled Mayorkas connected his allegations of a breached migration strategy and pressed the caput connected wherefore helium has not followed the Obama administration's precedent of loudly broadcasting consequences for amerciable entry. 

"If I instrumentality you backmost to Secretary Jeh Johnson and Obama, they were capable to dainty the migrants with respect and dignity, but astatine the aforesaid time, erstwhile the instrumentality said you got to nonstop them back, they sent them back," Cuellar said. "In fact, I worked with Secretary Johnson connected showing images of radical being returned to Honduras and the archetypal woman being there. Now it's similar we're acrophobic to amusement images of radical going back. Y'all deport hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of thousands of people, but each we spot is images of radical coming into the United States and nary images of radical going back, erstwhile the instrumentality has to beryllium enforced. And connected apical of that, determination are implicit 1 cardinal last deportation orders that person inactive not been executed, positive the 1.6 cardinal radical are inactive waiting connected immigration." 

Mayorkas reminded the congressman that helium served arsenic Johnson's deputy, adding that helium wanted to enactment immoderate "misimpressions" to rest. 

"We are so communicating robustly successful passim the portion successful the countries of root with respect to the removals, that we person effected and the effect authorities that we person imposed upon individuals who person crossed into our state who person been encountered astatine the border, who person nary ineligible assertion for alleviation present successful the United States," said Mayorkas. "So we are precise robustly communicating those removals and those consequences." 

Probed connected efforts to vaccinate migrants entering U.S. custody, Mayorkas said DHS is "gearing guardant to conscionable the nonsubjective of vaccinating up to 6,000 migrants a day, successful much than 20 facilities crossed the border," but helium declined to accidental however galore asylum-seekers and detainees had been vaccinated frankincense far.  

Asked astir the Biden administration's constricted court-ordered implementation of the "Remain successful Mexico" protocols, Mayorkas echoed his outspoken absorption to the Trump-era policy, referencing a Human Rights First report of 1,500 kidnappings, murders, instances of torture and different attacks against migrants enrolled successful the program.  

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments connected Tuesday successful a lawsuit that could find whether the Biden medication tin terminate the "Remain successful Mexico" policy, which was archetypal implemented nether erstwhile President Donald Trump and requires migrants arriving astatine the confederate borderline to hold extracurricular the U.S. for their asylum hearings.

According to Mayorkas (and arsenic outlined successful DHS' fund proposal) the section has requested "funding for much than 300 much borderline patrol agents." Mayorkas noted DHS has besides "requested backing for afloat clip lawsuit processing personnel. And we look guardant to and anticipation for this committee's support."  

"We request to get [U.S. Border Patrol agents] retired into the tract to interdict individuals who are seeking to transverse our borderline illegally," Mayorkas said. "And that's why… we're truly ramping up the lawsuit processing capabilities." 

Sec. Mayorkas besides stressed that DHS asked to treble -- to $360 cardinal -- backing for the non-profit information assistance program, successful its projected FY 2023 budget. As CBS News archetypal reported, advocates, religion leaders and the caput himself rallied for this successful the aftermath of the Colleyville, TX hostage situation.  

Camilo Montoya-Galvez contributed to this report. 

Nicole Sganga

CBS News newsman covering homeland information and justice.