Portman Presses DHS Secretary Mayorkas on Need for Action to Address Worst Migrant Crisis in More Than 21 Years

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, discussed the ongoing crisis at the southern border at a hearing titled: “Threats to the Homeland: Evaluating the Landscape 20 Years After 9/11.” The ongoing border crisis is due to the Biden administration’s decision to dismantle the previous administration’s border policies with no consideration of the consequences and has resulted in a historic surge of unlawful migrants, unaccompanied children, and deadly narcotics like fentanyl coming into our country. Senator Portman pressed the Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on when the Biden administration will put policies in place to address the worst migrant crisis in more than 21 years. Portman highlighted the need for an orderly and lawful immigration system while also addressing the pull factor that incentivizes migrants to make the journey to the United States. 

Excerpts from the questioning can be found below and a video can be found here.

Portman: “With regard to immigration. This obviously is a huge crisis right now on the border again, over 200,000 people last month. And let me just hold up these couple of charts because they’re interesting. I think for a number of reasons, one is with regard to encounters at the border. We’ve seen this chart. Senator Johnson’s got a much more colorful, interesting chart. But this is where we are. And I’ve condensed it a little bit just to start in the 2018 time period. This is when President Biden is inaugurated. We see this big increase. So we all know about that. And this is why policies, again, are making the job much harder for the people who you work with to be able to keep an orderly and legal process at the border. This is obviously a crisis. But here’s the second one. This is the people who are coming to our border from outside of Mexico or El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, so-called Northern Triangle. Look at that. That increase is much more dramatic. And these are people who come from Latin America, but they also come from Romania. I mean, they’re coming from all over the world. We’ve obviously seen them coming from Haiti. And the Haitian, the photos of what’s going on there, I mean look at this chart. It’s obviously a humanitarian crisis. It’s really discouraging to see. 

“But what we’re told is very different than what we’ve heard today. We’re told by ICE, Immigration Customs Enforcement, that only 353 Haitians have been flown back to Haiti out of the 13,000 to 15,000 that you said were there. And yet you’re telling us today, we’re taking care of it the numbers well below 10,000. That must mean that they were either removed to Mexico or released. I don’t think they were removed to Mexico because part of the problem with Title 42 is Mexico is not taking people unless they are Spanish-speaking, from Latin America. So we just again, we need to have our information clear. And in terms of why they came, I think this idea of a pull factor is very real. You know how I feel about the asylum system. I think it’s a pull factor. And I told you, I visited some of these countries in Latin America and Central America recently. And the presidents of these countries say we don’t like what you guys are doing because you’re pulling our good people away. You’re pulling our young people away. We want them to stay here, actually. But they’re coming to the border, not because of disinformation, necessarily, as Senator Padilla talked about. I appreciated his question, but a lot of it is accurate information because the smuggler can say, the human smuggler, can say to this family, ‘Give me $10,000. I’ll take your kid. I guarantee they can get in. Just say you are seeking asylum.’ 

“And with regard to the Haitians, this is what you hear. The Mayor of Del Rio, I believe said this and others who said it that Section 8, which is not Section 42, is being applied to Haitians. And the word got out. And the smugglers heard about it. And they said Haitians are getting in under Section 8. In other words, they are permitted to come into the country and boom. Then they came, of course. 

“On Section 42, the Rodney Scott letter, which we got by snail mail. So I didn’t get it until over the weekend. And we’ve circulated to all the offices now, and it’s part of the record today, he says, in October 2020, he was told that ‘91 percent of total encounters were processed under Title 42 and people were expelled on an average of 90 minutes.’ He said, ‘A report I received in August 2021 indicated that nearly 53 percent were granted exemptions from Title 42, with the majority ultimately being released into the United States.’ 

“So I understand what you’re saying about recidivism that some of these are people who have been stopped more than once that’s why the numbers are higher. But if it’s because of Title 42, then it would have been much more true under the previous administration than this administration because we’ve gone from, if these numbers are right, 91 percent were processed under Title 42 and expelled in 90 minutes and 53 percent now are being granted exemptions, at least as of August. So Title 42 may be short-lived for reasons that are beyond our control in the judicial branch. I understand that. But then we need an alternative. We’ve got to figure out a way to discourage people from coming to our country by letting them know the border is not open. You can’t just come and say that you claim asylum and be able to come in the United States indefinitely. You have to be able to prove that. 

“And as you know, Mr. Secretary, this is something you and I have talked about a lot, and I think until we do that and get to that point, those Haitians who were told, ‘Hey, we’re applying Title 8, which means you can come into the country rather than Title 42’ are going to keep coming and others will keep coming. And it’s not in anybody’s interest. And by the way, this notion that this can all be solved by investing in Latin America, particularly in the Northern Triangle countries. That’s our response in the administration typically is, we’re going to invest in the Northern Triangle countries. I’m not against that. We’ve done a lot of it $3.6 billion over the last five years. So another $4 billion, we’ll see. That’s not the ultimate answer, I don’t think. 

“But these are all people who came in from outside of Mexico and outside of the Northern Triangle. So are we also going to have a program to stop the push factor in these other countries, including some countries outside of Latin America? Anyway, my time is expired. I apologize for going over time. But as you know, Mr. Secretary, I have a passion for this. I want to get it right. So we have an orderly, lawful process. So the most generous country in the world in terms of immigration can continue to be so, and our citizens can support it. But based on a system that actually works for Latin America, for us, and for the rest of the world. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.”