Congresswoman Ashley Hinson of Iowa pushed Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandros Mayorkas to explain his agency’s budget requests.
Mayorkas has faced increasing scrutiny as illegal immigration and drug trafficking at the nation’s southern border continue to climb. He appeared before the House Appropriation subcommittee on March 29 to answer questions about a proposed budget for the Department of Homeland Security.
“Mr. Secretary, are you aware of how many times in your budget request you mention the word ‘cartel?’” asked Hinson.
“It’s zero,” replied Mayorkas.
Hinson noted the term “transnational gang” appears in the 100-page document and suggested Mayorkas’s priorities were misaligned with the needs of border agents.
“I’m very concerned when you say you’re addressing the cartels in unprecedented ways,” she continued. “The cartel activity along the southern border and in the homeland has escalated and I can say both times that I have visited the southern border, I have seen that countering the cartel activity was a number one concern for our CBP agents. But it’s a clear indication that you’re not listening to the men and women on the front lines.”
Mayorkas subsequently said he agreed “100 percent” that cartels were responsible for the increased trafficking of fentanyl across the US-Mexico border but denied Hinson’s other allegation.
“I disagree with 100 percent of your mischaracterizations of our commitment to border security, to tackling the cartels, to battling fentanyl and the fact is that we are supporting fully the men and women, the personnel of the Department of Homeland Security,” he said, per Fox News.
Mayorkas has proposed hiring about 1,400 additional Customs and Border Protection personnel – including 350 patrol agents and 310 processing coordinators. He has also requested $535 million in new funds for technology to secure the southern border.
Hinson, a Republican, has repeatedly called for Mayorkas to resign.
“Secretary Mayorkas has lied repeatedly to Congress and to the American people about the crisis at the border and has time and again put politics over border security,” she said in a statement on Oct. 19, 2021. “Secretary Mayorkas has failed in his duties as Secretary of Homeland Security and should tender his resignation. This is not a call I make lightly, but we are out of time, and there is a dangerous void in leadership from this Administration at the border. His replacement should commit to securing our border, providing our Border Patrol Agents with the support they need, and being accountable to and truthful with the American people about immigration policy.”
Mayorkas also testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 28, where he told Senator John Cornyn of Texas that he was “not aware” of cartels using illegal immigrants to distract border agents while drug smuggling or human trafficking.
Tuscon Sector Chief Border Patrol Agent John Modlin described the strategy while testifying before the House in February, as did Rio Grande Valley Sector Chief Border Patrol Agent Gloria Chavez, who called the strategy “task saturation.” U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland has also affirmed his familiarity with the distraction ploy used by cartels.
Cornyn admonished Mayorkas for not doing enough to stop the flow of fentanyl across the border despite the consequences of the opioid epidemic.
“Attorney General Garland said this is part of a comprehensive strategy by the cartels to flood these drugs into the United States by overwhelming Border Patrol,” Cornyn said. “You’re clearly losing that battle, and you won’t even apologize to these parents, like so many other parents who have lost their teenage children to counterfeit drugs laced with fentanyl.”
“You won’t answer our questions, and you won’t acknowledge responsibility,” the Senator continued. “You should be fired, but you haven’t been fired because you were carrying out the policies of the Biden administration, and we’ve seen nothing but death and destruction as a result.”