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DHS Secretary Grilled Over Title 42, Immigration Plans

April 29, 2022 by Reece Nations
DHS Secretary Grilled Over Title 42, Immigration Plans
A migrant waits on the Mexican side of the border after United States Customs and Border Protection officers detained a couple of migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border on the beach, in Tijuana, Mexico, Jan. 26, 2022. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte, File)

WASHINGTON — Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas faced tough questions this week from lawmakers, who pressed him over his department’s plan for southwest border security and preparedness set to take effect as Title 42 expires.

On Thursday, Mayorkas testified before the House Judiciary Committee where he answered inquiries on Customs and Border Protection operations, the rapid influx of migrant crossings and immigration courts’ backlog of detainee processing. 

The Biden administration released its plan to enforce immigration law without the use of Title 42 on Tuesday, and the panel probed him over its details and effectiveness in deterring future instances of migrant border encounters.

“Our department has been executing a comprehensive strategy to secure our borders and rebuild our immigration system,” Mayorkas said in his opening statement before the Judiciary Committee. “With the Title 42 public health order set to be lifted, we expect migration levels to increase.”

When Title 42 is lifted, DHS anticipates migration levels to rise as smugglers seek to take advantage of vulnerable migrants. However, DHS contends in its border security plan that the migration increase experienced by the United States is consistent with larger global trends.

The Biden administration’s plan encompasses six pillars of security, which include: 

  • Surging resources to help facilitate border operations. 
  • Increasing CBP processing to reduce the burden on the surrounding border communities. 
  • Enforcing existing immigration laws through removal, detention and prosecution. 
  • Expanding non-governmental organizations’ capacity to receive noncitizens after they have been processed by CBP and await the results of their immigration removal proceedings. 
  • Targeting transnational criminal organizations and smugglers hoping to profit from controlling migrant passages. 
  • Deterring irregular migration south of the border through new migration agreements with Costa Rica and Panama and with cooperation from Mexico. 

Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif., pointed out that an “illegal presence in the country” under current policy is not grounds for deportation as migrants await asylum requests and enforcement proceedings. 

In response, Mayorkas noted that migrants are detained prior to immigration proceedings and individuals who posed security threats are prioritized for deportation by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

When McClintock recited a litany of statistics about the decline in deportations of aliens with criminal convictions, Mayorkas fired back by maintaining that he was “misrepresenting the facts.” 

The confrontation grew testy as Mayorkas defended the Biden administration’s record on immigration law enforcement, asserting that just the opposite was true and the deportation rates of individuals with aggravated felonies had increased over the Trump administration.

“That’s down from 2020 or 2018,” McClintock said, cutting off Mayorkas’ rebuttal.

“Actually, you’re wrong,” Mayorkas said in response before carrying on.

At another point during the hearing, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., accused Mayorkas of ending Title 42 expulsions before its anticipated revocation on May 23. Issa referenced a conversation he’d had with a uniformed border patrol agent during a visit to Eagle Pass, Texas; a statement he claimed multiple members of the committee overheard.

“When we were at the border a week ago, we saw that — on your orders, orders from Washington, but I have to presume they were yours — Title 42 has already ended,” Issa said.

“Your customs people were ordered to, and they were bringing in every day as many as they could get from down in Mexico Title 42 people that had been refused, and bringing them back in.”

Mayorkas flatly denied any such actions taking place, calling the assertion “factually incorrect” and said the department had instead ramped up enforcement mechanisms that expedite the removal of individuals who lack a valid basis to remain in the country under Title 8 of U.S. Code. Title 8 codifies statutes relating to aliens and nationality in the U.S. and outlines the basis for expedited deportation under the law.

Lawmakers have pushed back on plans to roll back Title 42 since the planned revocation of the public health authority was announced at the beginning of the month. The Well News reported previously that legislation was introduced by a bipartisan and bicameral coalition to delay the end of Title 42 for at least 60 days past its initial expiration date.

Further, a federal judge in Louisiana issued a formal restraining order on Wednesday barring the Biden administration from phasing out Title 42 for at least two weeks. Judge Robert Summerhays’ order prevents DHS from increasing normal immigration processing beyond what they were before the administration announced Title 42’s planned expiration.

Although Title 42 is a more restrictive measure that can be used to subvert the processing of migrants prior to their expulsion from the country, CBP experienced a spike in individuals processed under Title 8 last month according to its public data.

Formal immigration discussions with the Biden administration were launched by a bipartisan group of senators on Thursday. The delegation engaging in the immigration talks is Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Sens. Alex Padilla, D-Calif., John Cornyn, R-Texas and Thom Tillis, R-N.C.

Together, the senators hope to negotiate an agreeable immigration package from already-introduced bipartisan immigration-related bills that could conceivably get the 60 votes needed to pass the Senate, Durbin’s office told The Well News. Whether or not the coalition can craft the deal in an election year remains to be seen.

“Our outdated immigration system was not built to manage the current levels and types of migratory flows that we are experiencing and is already under strain,” Mayorkas said in DHS’s immigration plan. “This is true at the federal level, as well as for state, local, and NGO partners.”

“However, we have been able to manage increased encounters because of prudent planning and execution, and the talent and unwavering dedication of the DHS workforce and our state, local, and community partners,” he concluded. 

Reece can be reached at reece@thewellnews.com or on Twitter @ReeceNWrites

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