FIRST ON FOX: Republicans on the House Oversight Committee are quizzing DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on remarks that they say misrepresents DHS data on the number of migrants who have passed "credible fear" screenings in the United States.
Chairman James Comer and Rep. Eric Burlison, R-Mo., have written to DHS querying Mayorkas about remarks he made in an interview with CNN, in which he asserted an orderliness to the massive migration across the southern border seen under the Biden administration.
"The vast majority of those individuals have not sought to evade law enforcement, but have actually surrendered themselves to law enforcement and made a claim for relief under our laws," he said. "And so they make their claims, and the initial threshold for those claims under the law is lower than the ultimate asylum standard."
However, the lawmakers cite data from DHS that shows only a fraction of migrants is given a credible fear screening -- in which they would claim to have a fear of persecution or torture if returned to their home country.
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"According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) data, more than 140,000 of the 172,116 Title 8 apprehensions made by U.S. Border Patrol agents in December 2022 resulted in an individual’s release into the country," the lawmakers write. "Yet according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), only 5,001 aliens were referred to that component for credible fear screenings that month. The numbers for other months similarly represent only a fraction of total releases."
They say that due to conflicting data, it is "impossible to know the extent of DHS’ catch and release policies."
They also claim that the statements "misrepresent DHS’s own data and perpetuates an incorrect narrative about how the Administration processes illegal border crossers for release into the United States."
"But it is clear, that instead of referring illegal aliens to USCIS for a credible fear screening, your policy in most circumstances is to simply release illegal aliens into the country," they say.
Migrants encountered at the border who have not been returned under the Title 42 public health order -- which is due to end in May -- will typically be processed and provisionally released as they continue with their immigration removal proceedings. Migrants will typically be given a Notice to Appear at an immigration court or be paroled into the U.S. while enrolled in Alternatives to Detention and told to check in at an ICE office.
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The lawmakers are seeking documents and communications related to the number of illegal migrants encountered at the border and processed into the U.S. in various manners, as well as the number referred to a credible fear screening.
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A spokesperson for DHS told Fox News that it responds to congressional correspondence directly via official channels "and the Department will continue to respond appropriately to Congressional oversight."
The inquiry comes as Republicans have been scrutinizing the administration’s handling of the ongoing border crisis, with some Republicans having floated a possible impeachment of Mayorkas.
Meanwhile, the Biden administration is pushing forward with a rule that would automatically make migrants ineligible for asylum if they had crossed into the U.S. illegally and failed to claim asylum at a country through which they crossed.
The administration’s policies were dealt a blow earlier this month when a federal judge in Florida struck down the Biden administration’s use of parole to mass release migrants into the U.S. interior, finding the practice unlawful and accusing the administration of turning the border into a "meaningless line in the sand."