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Sen. Hawley presses Mayorkas on border crisis

Sen. Josh Hawley grilled Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on the Biden administration’s efforts to stem the flow of illegal immigrants and whether it accepts responsibility for the humanitarian crisis created by the 15,000 Haitian migrants who massed near a border town in Texas.

Hawley (R-Mo.) pointed out that for the second straight month, in July and August, US Customs and Border Protection officials encountered more than 200,000 illegal immigrants and he asked Mayorkas if the administration’s plan to curb the surge was working. 

“We are implementing the plan, Sen. Hawley, and I can walk through the measures we’ve taken,” Mayorkas responded during a hearing before the Senate Homeland Security Committee on Tuesday.

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) questioned the Biden administration’s efforts to stem the flow of illegal immigrants.
POOL/AFP via Getty Images

“My question is when is it going to work?” Hawley shot back. 

Mayorkas said the number of encounters had fallen and that the Biden administration had been working with Mexico to stop migrants from coming to the US and continued to expel people using Title 42, the policy that allows illegal immigrants to be refused entry because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Hawley wasn’t convinced, and pressed Mayorkas on the success of the administration’s efforts in light of the 200,000 encounters and the small city of Haitians living under a bridge in Del Rio, Texas. 

Mayorkas said his department continues to execute its plan but has not completed it, admitting that “we need to do better.”

Alejandro Mayorkas, secretary of the US Department of Homeland Security
Alejandro Mayorkas admitted the Department of Homeland Security needs to do better.
Bloomberg via Getty Images

Hawley then asked Mayorkas how many Haitian migrants remained in the US. 

The DHS secretary said he didn’t have Tuesday’s numbers but said there were fewer than 10,000 Haitians. 

“I just want to go back to your statement earlier to me that you have a plan and that it’s working. Is 13,000 to 15,000 people crossing into the United States just last week, is that working?” Hawley pushed. 

Mayorkas said the situation in Del Rio is different than what’s happening in other parts of the southern border because it was a rapid escalation of people arriving.

US Border Patrol agents interact with Haitian immigrants on the bank of the Rio Grande in Del Rio, Texas on Sept. 20, 2021.
US Border Patrol agents interact with Haitian immigrants on the bank of the Rio Grande in Del Rio, Texas on Sept. 20, 2021.
John Moore/Getty Images

“Mr. Secretary, this happened on your watch,” Hawley said. 

He told Mayorkas that every time he testifies on Capitol Hill he says the plan will work and things aren’t as bad as they look. 

“Every time you leave, it gets worse and worse. This is a humanitarian crisis in Del Rio. You can spin it any way you want” but the administration’s lax immigration policies are creating the conditions for the border surge. 

He cited a report in the Washington Post that quoted a Haitian woman who with her family decided to travel from Chile to the US “because they heard, and I quote, President Biden was letting people in.”

Migrants cross the Rio Grande River near the Del Rio-Acuna Port of Entry in Acuna, Coahuila state, Mexico, on Sept. 20, 2021.
Migrants cross the Rio Grande River near the Del Rio-Acuna Port of Entry in Acuna, Mexico, on Sept. 20, 2021.
Bloomberg via Getty Images

Hawley also noted that the administration offered Haitians living illegally in the US Temporary Protected Status in May and halted deportation flights in the summer.  

“Don’t you think you bear responsibility for this latest crisis?” Hawley asked. 

Mayorkas said individuals who arrived in the US after July 29 are not eligible for that status and continued to say that smuggling operations are misleading people into thinking they will be able to cross the border. 

“Yes or no, Mr. Secretary, do you bear responsibility for the humanitarian crisis in Del Rio?” Hawley pressed.

“Senator, it is my responsibility to address the human tragedy in Del Rio. … And we are doing so. That is my responsibility and we are executing it as the Department of Homeland Security,” Mayorkas said. 

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