Appropriations Subcommittee Challenges DHS Secretary Mayorkas in FY2023 Budget Review

050422 DHS Appropriations Hearing
VIDEO:  Senator Hyde-Smith Presses Homeland Secretary to Determine when Migrant Influx Constitutes a National Threat.
PHOTO:  Senator Hyde-Smith and Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – With the outlook for the ongoing border crisis projected to get worse in coming weeks, U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) today pressured Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to define the level at which the record-breaking influx of illegal immigrants becomes a homeland security threat.

During a Senate Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on the FY2023 budget request for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Hyde-Smith challenging Mayorkas’ assertions that the Biden administration’s border security and immigration policies are working.

“It’s remarkable to me that the Secretary of Homeland Security can’t, or won’t, articulate the point at which the alarming and growing influx of illegal immigrants at the border represents a threat to homeland security,” Hyde-Smith said following the hearing.  “That inability is at the core of the border crisis we’re experiencing today, and it’s only going to get worse.”

In an extended exchange, Mayorkas would not respond specifically to Hyde-Smith’s repeated question:  “At what point, in your judgement, does the growing number of encounters become a threat to homeland security?”

“Like many of my colleagues, I have traveled to the southwest border and seen the admirable work that the Border Patrol agents do on a daily basis.  An unbelievable task,” Hyde-Smith said.  “We’ve heard statistics of border security operations under your leadership versus previous DHS secretaries.  During the month of March, there were 220,000 encounters at the southwest border—220,000.  As Secretary of Homeland Security, would you consider the 220,000 migrant encounters in March a threat to the homeland security?”

Mayorkas instead repeatedly pointed to a six-pillar plan to confront an unprecedented immigration surge when the Title 42 public health rule is lifted on May 23.  Many subcommittee members believe the plan is designed to process migrants into the country more quickly rather than to secure the border.

The overall $97.3 billion DHS budget request includes a request for $375 million to expedite processing of asylum claims and $389 million to reduce asylum petition backlogs.

Related to aircraft manufacturing in Mississippi, Hyde-Smith also asked Mayorkas whether a $20.5 million request for the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Light Enforcement Platform aircraft procurement will focus on rotary wing aircraft.  Congress last year appropriated an additional $8.8 million for more light enforcement helicopters.

“Equipping our Border Patrol with the workforce, tools, and technology needed to secure our borders is vital to meet the growing crisis that we face at our southwest border.  As I’m sure you are aware, CBP’s Light Enforcement Helicopter fleet is critical to providing surveillance and supporting Border Patrol agents on the ground disrupting unlawful activity,” Hyde-Smith told Mayorkas.

Also as part of his testimony, Mayorkas attempted to defend his agency’s Disinformation Governance Board, which he downplayed as a “working group.”  Hyde-Smith this week cosponsored legislation to defund and terminate this board.