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Pfluger: Secretary Mayorkas’ Misleading Border Claims Have Cost the American People—And They Should Cost Him His Job

Originally Published in the Midland Reporter-Telegram on January 10, 2024

In testimony before the House Committee on Homeland Security in April 2023, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas made the bold—and untrue—claim that  “the border is secure.”

This startling falsehood was yet another defining moment in Mayorkas’ long history of untrue statements as DHS secretary, and one that most Americans, especially those living on the frontlines of this crisis in Texas, know is completely divorced from reality. 

The Committee is finalizing its year-long investigation into Secretary Mayorkas’ failure to secure the border and refusal to carry out the laws passed by Congress. During this investigation, Mayorkas’ pervasive efforts to stonewall Congress and mislead the American people have only strengthened our resolve to hold him accountable.

Of course, Texas communities know firsthand that the border is not secure.

Since the Biden Administration took office, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has recorded over 1.7 million known gotaways—almost as many people as the combined population of San Antonio and Austin, and that number does not even account for individuals who snuck across the border completely undetected. These individuals could be dangerous criminals, terrorists, or drug smugglers, and our dedicated but overwhelmed Border Patrol agents have no tools left to stem the flow.

Secretary Mayorkas knows the border is not secure, and that the American people are ultimately paying the price.

He has claimed under oath that DHS maintains operational control of the border as defined by the Secure Fence Act of 2006. However, when confronted by Chairman Mark Green in an April 2023 hearing, Mayorkas recanted his previous claim, saying he “use[s] a lens of reasonableness” to determine operational control—not the definition established by Congress. Even though he later recanted, Mayorkas lied to Congress when he stated that DHS maintained operational control of the border under the Secure Fence Act.  

Secretary Mayorkas has also claimed on numerous occasions that he is “enforcing our laws.” Following the end of Title 42, he even claimed, “People who cross our border unlawfully and without a legal basis to remain will be promptly processed and removed.” This is also false.

We know that since 2021, Border Patrol has released over 1.4 million illegal aliens into the interior with a “Notice to Appear” (NTA), which requires the illegal alien to appear for a court date, often years in the future. CBP’s Office of Field Operations (OFO) has also issued nearly 600,000 NTAs at ports of entry since the beginning of this administration. Additionally, DHS has released more than 1.6 million aliens on parole, in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act.

Throughout our committee’s investigation in conjunction with the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability, numerous Southwest border chief patrol agents testified on the record that this unprecedented influx was caused by the lack of consequences for illegally crossing our borders. Shockingly, the deputy chief patrol officer for Arizona’s Yuma Sector told Committee staff that his agents were releasing roughly 70 percent of the illegal aliens apprehended since January 2021 in his sector.

But the crisis caused by Mayorkas’ dangerous falsehoods is not just limited to border communities, it has major national security implications. In our annual Worldwide Threats hearing, I asked the secretary a simple question: Does DHS have a policy to detain individuals on the terrorist watchlist who are encountered attempting to cross our borders?

Mayorkas admitted that even those on the terrorist watchlist are only apprehended “if we believe that the detention of an individual is necessary to safeguard the safety of the American people.”  

This means there could be suspected terrorists who have not been properly vetted or detained, threatening the safety and security of Americans across this country. This possibility has even been proven true by a DHS Office of Inspector General report in June of 2023 detailing the release of an illegal alien on the terrorist watchlist who was not re-apprehended for two weeks.

This event is extremely troubling, as over 300 individuals on the terrorist watchlist have been apprehended illegally crossing the Southwest border since Fiscal Year 2021 — more than ever before.

When asked by Washington Post reporter Nick Miroff if the overwhelming number of inadmissible aliens flooding our border affects CBP’s ability to interdict dangerous drugs, Mayorkas simply replied, “No, it does not.”

However, chief patrol agents told our Committee on the record that reassigning Border Patrol agents to help process illegal aliens into the country, which is a constant occurrence amid this startling influx, could lead to increased gotaways and narcotics smuggling across newly-vulnerable stretches of the border.

Mayorkas may try to spin the truth, but it is evident to the American people. Empowered by the chaos over the last two years, transnational criminal organizations have trafficked enough deadly fentanyl into our communities to take a record number of lives in communities across the country.

In July, Secretary Mayorkas made the bold claim that “Americans are safer today on the border.” Texans know all too well how dangerously out of touch he is, as far too many have suffered immeasurable loss due to these vicious cartels.

Last year, the Tambunga family of Ozona, Texas, tragically lost a seven-year-old and her 71-year-old grandmother in a car crash caused by a cartel-recruited human smuggler. The Tambunga family does not feel safe, Secretary Mayorkas.

The truth is simple—Mayorkas has not only failed in his duty to secure the homeland, but he has refused to be honest with Congress and the American people about the dangerous implications of this failure.

This is why I am supporting the impeachment proceedings before the House Committee on Homeland Security. I look forward to swift action to hold him accountable.