FIRST ON FOX: Nearly two dozen Republicans are pushing Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas for answers on policies related to the ongoing crisis at the southern border — coming after fiery hearings in both the House and Senate and a ruling by a federal judge that dealt a blow to the administration’s policies that allow migrants to be paroled into the U.S.
“The responsibilities of the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) include maintaining the security of our nation’s borders and the administration and enforcement of our nation’s immigration laws,” the 22 Republicans led by Rep. Josh Brecheen, R-Okla. “This is not occurring.”
The lawmakers pointed to a recent decision by a Florida judge to block an administration policy that allows for the release of migrants via humanitarian parole into U.S. using Alternatives to Detention — known as “Parole + ATD” — ruling it to be unlawful. The judge said that the administration “effectively turned the Southwest Border into a meaningless line in the sand and little more than a speedbump for aliens flooding into the country.”
Mayorkas has defended his agency, saying it is bringing order and humanity to border policy while simultaneously dealing with a hemisphere-wide challenge. Republicans, however, have tied the historic migrant crisis now into its third year to the administration’s policies — including those related to parole.
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Former Oklahoma state Sen. Josh Brecheen, Republican candidate for U.S. House, is pictured at a rally in support of Oklahoma Gov. Kevin State, Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2022, in Oklahoma City. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
“A major component of these failed policies is DHS’ disregard for enforcing existing immigration law, such as your department’s abuse of parole,” the lawmakers say.
The use of humanitarian parole is defined by statute as being limited to a “case-by-case basis” for “urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit.” The administration has used not only the parole + ATD program to release migrants into the U.S., but has also introduced a policy announced in January that allows for up to 30,000 migrants from Venezuela, Cuba, Haiti and Nicaragua to be paroled in if they have not crossed illegally and meet other conditions — including having a sponsor in the U.S.
Over 20 Republican states have sued over that policy, saying it is unlawful. The administration has said that the policy has contributed to a sharp drop in encounters at the border in January and February, including among those nationalities, and says it shows that expanding lawful pathways is an effective strategy to handle the surge. DHS also says it is confident that the parole processes it uses are permitted under the statute that limits the use of parole.
4.6 GOP Letter to Mayorkas … by Fox News
The lawmakers, however, say the policies are “negatively impacting our constituents’ lives” and ask a series of questions to discover the extent of the policies. They are seeking the number of migrants who have been granted parole since the beginning of the administration, as well as the demographics and nationalities of those paroled. They are also seeking statutory support for a mass parole program like the January program.
The lawmakers also want data on the number of migrants released into the U.S. without a court date, the number who have made a “credible fear” claim — which marks the beginning of an asylum claim. The lawmakers on the letter include Reps Andy Ogles, R-Tenn., Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., Chip Roy, R-Texas, Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., and Eli Crane, R-Ariz.
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Additionally, they ask why DHS claims a lack of resources for a drop in ATD implementation, while also reducing the number of ICE detention beds. ICE’s latest budget request drops the number of beds by 9,000 from 34,000 to 25,000 — although DHS officials have said that a border contingency fund allows for the number of beds to be increased back to 34,000 if required.
In a statement to Fox News Digital, DHS said it “responds to Congressional correspondence directly via official channels, and the Department will continue to respond appropriately to Congressional oversight.”
The scrutiny comes after some fiery hearings in both the House and the Senate where Mayorkas was grilled over his handling of the crisis. Multiple Republicans called for him to step down. Mayorkas backed the policies, and pointed to the recent drop in apprehensions at the border as a sign they are working. DHS has also pushed Republicans to accede to border funding requests made by the administration.
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But the border is likely to be under scrutiny in the coming weeks ahead of the end of the Title 42 order in May — which has been used to expel hundreds of thousands of migrants due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That ability will end on May 11 along with the end of the public health emergency.