A US-Mexico border state Democrat joined a chorus of Republican lawmakers in knocking the Biden administration’s plan to mitigate a potential surge of migrants at the southern border when a Trump-era pandemic restriction lifts.
“Putting more pressure on a system that can’t handle it carries a significant risk of creating a full scale humanitarian crisis on American soil for which the White House and your department will be solely responsible. No person who cares about migrants should want that,” Democratic Rep. Greg Stanton of Arizona told Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas during a House panel hearing. “It’s clear to me that the federal government is not prepared. Not even close.”
Stanton acknowledged that migration issues are not unique to the United States and called the Trump administration’s approach “inhumane, ineffective, and harmed the federal government’s long term ability to process migrants through the system.”
The hearing comes as the administration is facing increasing criticism from Republicans and some Democrats about its approach to ending a Trump-era pandemic restriction, known as Title 42, on the US-Mexico border. That authority allows border officials to immediately send migrants back to their home country citing a public health emergency. The Biden administration announced in April it was ending the practice on May 23.
But, Stanton said, a DHS memo outlining preparations on the US southern border wasn’t sufficient to face record-breaking numbers.
“Your memo acknowledges that even with Title 42 restrictions in place, Customs and Border Patrol was so overwhelmed and just two months ago that it had to increase in its numbers of agents deployed along the southwest border by more than 600. You proposed adding a few hundred more,” Stanton said.
“But Mr. Secretary, no thinking person believes that modest staffing improvements will put the federal government in a position to handle triple the number of crossings. Not a chance,” he added.
Mayorkas maintained in response to some of Stanton’s concerns that part of its planning including bolstering capacity of nonprofit organizations and coordinating with city, local and state officials.
“We will be prepared, and our plan is comprehensive,” Mayorkas said.
At the hearing, Republican lawmakers also slammed the Biden administration’s immigration policies in their questioning of Mayorkas – at times, leaning on ugly racial stereotypes to criticize Mayorkas’ leadership.
Republican Rep. Ken Buck, a Colorado Republican, criticized Mayorkas for reversing Trump-era immigration policies and claimed Americans were frustrated with Spanish-speaking children in schools, immigrants getting care in hospitals, and wages “suppressed by the mass influx of laborers.”
“Secretary Mayorkas, I was at an event this past weekend and a lady approached me and asked me if you felt any shame for what you’ve done to this country. My question for you Secretary Mayorkas is very simple. Would you please answer that lady’s question? Are you ashamed for what you’ve done to this country?” Buck asked.
“Congressman, I have so much to say,” Mayorkas replied.
“You got a minute and 17 seconds to say it,” Buck said
“In response to what you have just said. It is so profoundly offensive on so many different levels, in so many different regards. I won’t ask you for an apology,” Mayorkas said.
CORRECTION: This story has been updated to correct a quote from Rep. Greg Stanton.