The Republican-led House Oversight Committee on Jan. 19 is investigating the Biden administration’s handling of the border crisis amid record numbers of illegal aliens entering the United States from Mexico, and continued fentanyl smuggling into the country.
Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.), chairman of the committee, issued a letter (pdf) to Alejandro Mayorkas, the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), requesting documents and internal DHS communications “to understand DHS’s policies, the costs of the emergency measures needed to respond to the worsening crisis, and the national security risks created by these policies.”
He also called on chief border patrol officials to testify at an upcoming hearing to be held on the week of Feb. 6. Chief Border Patrol agents Jason Owens, Gregory Bovino, Gloria Chavez, and acting chief Patricia McGurk-Daniel, who oversee border sectors in Texas, Arizona, and California, were called to testify at the hearing about “how U.S. Border Patrol agents are managing the crisis and the impact of the crisis on their mission to secure the border.”
“President Biden’s radical open borders agenda has ignited the worst border crisis in American history. The Biden Administration’s deliberate actions are fueling human smuggling, stimulating drug cartel operations, enabling deadly drugs such as fentanyl to flow into American communities, and encouraging illegal immigrants to flout U.S. immigration laws,” Comer said in a statement announcing the border investigation.
“Republicans will hold the Biden Administration accountable for this ongoing humanitarian, national security, and public health crisis that has turned every town into a border town.”
Mayorkas was asked to produce documents “about DHS’s role in undermining efforts to secure the southern border,” Comer’s office announced.
Such documents include communications about the numbers of illegal aliens released from DHS custody into the United States, as well as communications on any plans to secure the border and increase the seizure rate of dangerous drugs like fentanyl.
Comer also requested communications related to the decision to end former President Donald Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” (Migrant Protection Protocols) policy; communications on how the soaring illegal crossings have affected retention, recruitment, and morale among border agents; and much more.
“DHS will respond to members of Congress through official channels,” a DHS spokeswoman said in a statement.
In the letter to Mayorkas, Comer accused the Biden administration of having failed to ensure that the U.S. immigration system is safe, orderly, and humane. The Oversight chairman also accused President Joe Biden of having “waited until there was a Republican majority in the House of Representatives to finally visit the border” in early January.
“The visit, however, comes long after DHS’s rollback of deterrent-focused policies that were working to reduce the number of illegal border crossings,” Comer told Mayorkas, adding that the rollback has given power to human smuggling groups and cartel criminals over the past two years.
Comer also charged that the Biden administration’s recently-announced “parole program” for people from Cuba, Nicaragua, and Haiti is an “unlawful abuse of the parole process.”
“As the border crisis worsens, DHS and the Biden Administration continue to implement failed policies,” Comer wrote, adding, “Instead of working to resolve the situation, the Biden Administration is lying to the American people that the border is secure—despite thousands of illegal aliens and massive quantities of deadly fentanyl evading apprehension every day—and persisting in its ultimate goal to enact a massive amnesty for millions of illegal aliens.”
Since Biden took office in 2021 and scaled back or terminated key Trump-era policies, illegal immigration has soared to record levels.
The DHS has since struggled to manage the influx of illegal immigrants, even though Mayorkas has repeatedly claimed that the border is closed and that no crisis exists. More than 2.3 million apprehensions were recorded at the U.S.–Mexico border in fiscal year 2022, which ended on Sept. 30, 2022—up about 37 percent from the previous year.
Actions under the Biden administration included pausing and ultimately suspending border wall construction; efforts to put on hold and terminate the Migrant Protection Protocols; and pulling back on using Title 42 emergency powers amid the COVID-19 pandemic by exempting illegal immigrant children and many family units from being expelled under the policy.
Republicans have threatened to impeach Mayorkas, with Rep. Pat Fallon (R-Texas) in early January filing three articles of impeachment against the DHS chief.
But Mayorkas has no plans to resign, the DHS confirmed. The department asserted that the charges against Mayorkas were not only factually inaccurate but also failed to meet the constitutional standard of “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”
Meanwhile, Biden, in early January, pushed back at congressional Republicans for having “rejected” his administration’s request back in December 2022 for an additional $3.5 billion in funding for the DHS that he said would “secure the border.”
That money for DHS would expand transportation capabilities, so the immigrants can either be moved to less crowded border facilities or be quickly removed if they have no legal grounds to stay. It would also fund more holding facilities, help speed up the processing of asylum claims, and hire 300 additional border patrol agents.
Biden also said that Congress had also rejected his request for funds for 2,000 new asylum officers and personnel, and 100 new immigration judges “so people don’t have to wait years to get their claims adjudicated.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.