Targeting Biden’s immigration policies, Republicans attack mayors

WASHINGTON — Republicans in Congress stepped up their attacks on Tuesday against Alejandro N. Mayorkas, the Homeland Security Secretary whom House leaders have vowed to impeach, accusing him of being personally responsible for the deaths of Americans linked to the drugs and rapes of migrant children, and repeatedly calling on him to resign.

Mayorkas’ first appearance before the new Congress underscored the depth of partisan anger he faces on Capitol Hill, where Republicans are intent on hammering President Biden’s immigration policies and have named his top border official as a ripe target for condemnation.

“The dead, the molested children, the raped children — they are at your feet, and if you had integrity, you would resign,” Senator Ted Cruz of Texas told Mr Mayorkas in a particularly testy exchange during a Judiciary Committee hearing. . Mr. Cruz repeatedly cut the secretary off while accusing him of letting murderers and rapists into the country and of being “willing to let children be raped to follow political orders”.

“What the senator said was shocking. I’m not going to talk about it,” Mr. Mayorkas retorted, after Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois and chairman of the panel, gave him a chance to respond.

“Your refusal to do your job is appalling,” retorted Mr. Cruz.

As the House GOP’s top target for possible impeachment charges, Mr. Mayorkas is no stranger to Republican attacks, which are expected to continue Wednesday when he is due to appear before the House and Senate Appropriations Committees. House Republicans have spent the first few months of their new majority traveling to the US-Mexico border in succession to document evidence of what they call a spiraling ‘crisis’ of illegal immigration and drug trafficking. cross-border. They blamed the Homeland Security Secretary, whom they accuse of being either too ignorant to do anything about it or malicious in his willingness to allow it to happen.

Republicans’ angry tirades against Mr. Mayorkas, which come as he circles Capitol Hill this week for the annual budget hearings in which he calls for additional resources for his department, quickly overwhelmed any substantive debate on immigration.

A discussion of the fentanyl epidemic that began as a bipartisan business veered into partisan bickering after Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, blamed Mr Mayorkas for overdose deaths in the United States since taking office .

“You should be fired, but you weren’t fired because you were carrying out the policies of the Biden administration, and we only saw death and destruction as a result,” Cornyn said. He demanded that Mr. Mayorkas “apologize to those parents who lost their children to fentanyl poisoning, because of the policies of your department and the Biden administration.”

Mr. Mayorkas, during the rare moments when he could get a word out, was quick to counter the criticism with statistics. He said customs officers have “seized record amounts of fentanyl at our ports of entry,” where “about 90 percent” of those shipments enter the United States. He noted that the ministry was “increasing resources” to these entry points to increase these prohibitions.

Democrats also stepped in to defend him.

“This problem didn’t start under Joe Biden,” Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey said, responding to Mr. Cornyn’s accusations by noting that fentanyl deaths had increased under the Trump administration. He said fentanyl imports were “predominantly” brought into the United States by Americans passing through ports of entry.

“We can have whoever happens to be the Secretary of Homeland Security, bring him in and beat him up, or we could do our job,” said Sen. Peter Welch, Democrat of Vermont.

But most of the Republican senators on the panel were more interested in grilling Mr. Mayorkas than discussing potential border security improvements. Several also demanded that the Secretary account for an apparent discrepancy between his previous testimony to Congress that the border was operationally secure and that of Raul L. Ortiz, the Border Patrol chief, who told a panel of the Room earlier this month that was not the case.

“As far as the definition of operational control is concerned, I am not using the definition that appears in the law on secure fences,” Mayorkas told the panel, referring to a 2006 law that defines the term as “the prevention of all illegal entries into the United States.” In his testimony, Mr. Ortiz was asked to define border security according to this definition.

Border Patrol has long used a different standard of “operational control” which is defined as “the ability to detect, respond to and interdict border penetrations in areas deemed to be of high priority” – a standard Mr Mayorkas suggested that he was referring to in his previous testimony.

“The way I define it is to maximize the resources we have to achieve effective results,” Mayorkas continued.

But it also triggered Republicans, who suggested that Mr Mayorkas be fired for seeking to change the definitions of the laws he has sworn to enforce.

“Your department has spent an inordinate amount of money preparing for impeachment proceedings,” said Sen. Mike Lee of Utah. “Could it be that they know you did this – redefining statutory terms, failing to enforce the law? It looks removable to me.


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