Homeland Chief Targeted for Ouster Touts Focus on Agency Mission

  • Secretary highlights dramatic drop in border encounters
  • House Republicans pursuing new impeachment effort

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Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas insists he doesn’t take Republican-led political attacks personally, but he can’t just shrug off the mounting criticism.

“I just heartily and fully disagree with the assertions, and I will not be diverted from the work that we’re doing because of them,” Mayorkas said Thursday during a discussion with reporters at the Department of Homeland Security’s headquarters.

A day earlier, a fired-up group of House Republicans stood outside the US Capitol listing off ways they say the secretary has failed to protect the American people. Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), who led the group in launching a fresh impeachment bid, argued that Mayorkas has deliberately weakened US border security.

Photographer: Anna Rose Layden/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and other House Republicans denounce DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas outside the US Capitol on Feb. 1, 2023.

Mayorkas, a Cuban refugee and the first immigrant to lead DHS, has become the face of the Biden administration’s immigration policies and a political punching bag for Republicans who’ve made border security a top campaign issue.

Mayorkas Allies Brace for GOP Investigation, Impeachment Quest

He touted the success of a set of new policies allowing 30,000 Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans, and Venezuelans to receive temporary “parole” authorization to come to the US each month, while expelling those who try to cross the border. Preliminary estimates indicate an “extraordinarily dramatic drop” in overall border encounters—roughly 150,000 in January, down from 250,000 the previous month—as the policies were rolled out, Mayorkas said.

Republican-led states are challenging the new parole initiative in court.

DHS has struggled to manage record migrant encounters over the past two years while contending with an uptick in worldwide migration and juggling a variety of carrot-and-stick measures aimed at deterring illegal border crossings while ensuring humanitarian protections. The administration has retained some Trump-era restrictions while scrapping others.

And while border hawks argue DHS is undermining security by taking a mixed approach, there’s no evidence for Republican lawmakers’ claims that the administration is trying to create chaos at the border.

“Regardless of the motive, I disagree profoundly with their assertion, and it is my intention to see it prove unsuccessful,” Mayorkas said of the new impeachment resolution—the third one Republicans have filed targeting him. He added that he’s directed his team to cooperate with congressional investigations.

Drones, Cyber Board

As the department braces for showdowns on Capitol Hill, it’s also working on several high-stakes but lower-profile legislative priorities.

Mayorkas highlighted the department’s work on its upcoming fiscal 2024 budget request, efforts to expand federal authorities to combat dangerous drones, and a proposal to authorize a cybersecurity board.

DHS pushed legislation last year that would have given the Transportation Security Administration direct authority to take down threatening drones and established a pilot program for select local law enforcement agencies to combat the devices. Lawmakers punted on the proposal, agreeing to extend more limited existing authorities while leaving more time to debate an expansion.

House Bill to Intercept Drones Falls Short of White House Wishes

“That didn’t cross the finish line—it’s something very important,” he said.

The department is also eager to get formal congressional authorization for its Cyber Safety Review Board, which analyzes major cyber incidents and makes remediation recommendations, Mayorkas said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ellen M. Gilmer in Washington at egilmer@bloombergindustry.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Gregory Henderson at ghenderson@bloombergindustry.com; Sarah Babbage at sbabbage@bgov.com

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