Editor's note: During a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing Tuesday, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., grilled Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on the surge of illegal immigration under the Biden administration. Watch the video above, or read this lightly edited transcript:
Ron Johnson: Secretary [Alejandro] Mayorkas, I'm putting a chart that I've been keeping on apprehension[s] [at the] southwest border. Just to give you some quick numbers here, to date [in] this county here, there [have] been almost 1.3 million apprehensions.
We're averaging the last two months, 6,7 to 6,800 people per day. That's a large caravan per day being apprehended by Border Patrol.
Eight to 1,100 known got-aways, which would equate somewhere over 300,000 got-aways—known got-aways—for the year. If you analyze these figures, then a couple of hundred thousand people per month, I will be up to about 2.1 million apprehensions. Add the getaway, [which] is three to 400,000. We're up to [2.5] million people.
You have repeatedly stated that our borders are not open. They're closed. Do you honestly believe that our borders are closed?
Alejandro Mayorkas: Senator, I do, and let me speak to that.
Johnson: Now, let me ask you a couple questions here. This committee received—it was dated Sept. 11, but apparently this letter was not received until Thursday. I didn't find out about it until yesterday. I released it to the public immediately—by recently retired U.S. Border Patrol Chief Rodney Scott.
In this letter, former Chief Scott states he is sickened by the avoidable and rapid disintegration of what was arguably the most effective border security in our nation's history. And of course, the chart shows it.
We'd pretty well secured the border. We'd stopped the flow of unaccompanied children. We'd stopped the flow of family units because of the Migrant Protection Protocols, the agreements that President [Donald] Trump put in place, the building of the wall. We were serious about border security until your administration took office.
You stood before this committee and said that you would enforce the laws. You have not done that. Let me go on.
Chief Scott says, “To think that well-resourced terrorist networks, criminal organizations in hostile nations are not going to do the same—in other words, exploit the open border—is naive.”
Here's what's very troubling. You said [former Secretary Chad Wolf] and other political appointees within [the Department of Homeland Security] had provided factually incorrect information to congressional representatives and to the American public.
So let me ask you, Mr. Secretary, of the 1.3 million people that we've apprehended, how many people have been returned, how many people are being detained, and how many people have been dispersed?
And I want some numbers here. So we got what we got, 1.3 million people.
How many people had been returned? How many people are being detained? How many people have been dispersed to all points around America?
Mayorkas: Senator, I would be pleased to provide you with that data.
Johnson: I want them now. Why don't you have that information now?
Mayorkas: Senator, I do not have that data before me.
Johnson: Why not? Why don't you have that basic information?
Mayorkas: Senator, I want to be accurate in the information—
Johnson: I'm looking for ballpark figures. Is it about half? Have we dispersed about half of that? Are we up to about 600,000 people we dispersed?
Mayorkas: Senator, these are the tools that we employ. We use the Title 42 authority—that is the public health authority empowered by the Centers for Disease Control [and Prevention]—to expel individuals in light of the public health authority.
Johnson: I'm hearing that you are not using that to the full extent and that we've got 40% [to] 50% of people even apprehended under Title 42 that are not being returned. Is that accurate?
Mayorkas: That is actually inaccurate.
Johnson: OK, so if you are saying that’s inaccurate, what’s the real figure? …
Mayorkas: If I may say, Senator, we use the Title 42 authority, the public health authority of the Centers for Disease Control [and Prevention], to the fullest extent we are able to.
Johnson: So what is the percent that you are returning under Title 42? It's about 750,000 people apprehended under Title 42. How many of those individuals have been returned under Title 42?
Mayorkas: Senator, I will provide that data to you.
Johnson: So you're saying that 40% to 50% is not accurate. If you know that that's not accurate, you must have the real number.
Mayorkas: Senator, what I said was not accurate was your assertion that we are not using Title 42 authority to the fullest extent that we can.
Johnson: That’s not what I said at all. I said we're not returning everybody under Title 42. We're dispersing a number of those individuals.
Mayorkas: Not for reasons of our limitation of use that we impose on ourselves, but rather because certain of our capacity to return people under Title 42 is constrained by the Mexican authorities’ ability to receive them.
This is a matter of bilateral and multilateral relationships. We exercise the Title 42 authority to the fullest extent that we can. We then work with Mexico to assess what its capacity to receive individuals is.
Johnson: Again, you're talking about the process. I want numbers. I'm going to expect numbers. By the way, last year, in which you didn’t stick around for second-round questions, you didn't come in here in person, I sent you questions, for the record. I have [gotten] no response whatsoever.
And you came before this committee and you committed to responding to congressional oversight and you have not done so. And according to former Chief Scott, you provided factually incorrect information to Congress. So we're expecting you to up your game as it relates to congressional oversight.
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