A new report by Republicans on the House Homeland Security Committee is blaming DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas for what it says are the "devastating human costs" of the migrant crisis at the southern border.
"These devastating human costs fall squarely on Mayorkas’ shoulders, and no amount of excusemaking, blame-shifting, or political prevaricating can change that fact," the report says.
The latest report is the third of its kind from the committee to detail Mayorkas’ handling of the crisis. It comes amid blistering criticism from Republicans, including calls by some for his impeachment for the implementation of policies which they say have fueled the border crisis — including reduced interior enforcement and expanded "catch-and-release."
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It follows a committee hearing in September where members heard about the human effects of the crisis — including child trafficking, overwhelmed Border Patrol agents, and the ongoing effects of fentanyl trafficking in from Mexico.
Fentanyl, which is responsible for tens of thousands of death each year, is primarily trafficked across the southern border after being produced in Mexico using Chinese precursors. The report notes a dramatic increase in seizures at the border, including between ports of entry, and warns it is possible that more is getting past overwhelmed agents.
"As [cartels] push record numbers of illegal aliens across the border, stretching Border Patrol resources to—and often past—the breaking point, they have increased their ability to push drugs like fentanyl across, as well," the report says.
The administration says it has been cracking down on fentanyl smuggling, and that it is showing results. Officials have pointed to two operations, Operations Blue Lotus and Four Horseman, which have stopped nearly 10,000 lbs in two months. A spokesperson said in response to the report that it has arrested more criminals for fentanyl-related crimes in two years than in the previous five fiscal years.
"DHS has launched unprecedented campaigns, working with our allies, deploying new high-tech solutions, and leading investigations that are cracking down on criminal smuggling networks," they said.
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The Republican report also outlines an immense cost on Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers and agents, pointing to evidence of stress, increased workload and concerns about suicide. It blames the increased fatigue on the crisis, which it says is caused by the administration, as well as instances such as the blaming of Border Patrol agents for their actions during the since-debunked "whipping" controversy in Del Rio in 2021.
"The heroism of the men and women who sign on the dotted line to serve and protect their fellow countrymen is unparalleled. Tragically, the policies of Secretary Mayorkas spurn that heroism," it says.
A DHS spokesperson rejected criticism about Border Patrol morale, saying it has taken "significant strides to support our workforce" and had prioritized providing resources and support, including over 1,000 additional processing coordinators and 300 additional agents.
"This Administration has secured historic levels of funding that include the first increase in hiring for the U.S. Border Patrol in a decade and new resources across the Department for employee mental health and well-being," they said." The best way to support personnel handling historic levels of migration is for Congress to pass the Biden-Harris administration’s proposal to fully fund our work, invest in new technologies, and finally fix our broken immigration system."
The lengthy report also outlines the impact of illegal immigrants on crime and public safety, citing fewer arrests of criminal illegal immigrants by ICE due to reduced enforcement and crimes committed by illegal immigrants. Finally, it points to the increase suffering and deaths of migrants who have been attracted to the southern border. Republicans cite an increase in migrant deaths during this crisis, the suffering endured by migrants at the hands of smugglers, the abandonment of children by smugglers and the increased human trafficking of children into the labor market.
"This self-inflicted crisis has exacted a terrible human cost all across our country," Chairman Mark Green said in a statement. "Since Secretary Mayorkas took office, we’ve watched in horror as fentanyl has increasingly spread into our communities, criminal illegal aliens have poured across the border, and law enforcement has been completely overwhelmed. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of vulnerable people, including children, have been trafficked or smuggled across the border by the cartels into forced labor, the sex trade, and other horrific situations.
"Secretary Mayorkas’ dereliction of duty is central to these horrors, and instead of changing course on the policies that brought us here, he has only doubled down in their defense," he said. "It’s unacceptable, and we’re going to keep informing the public about what this crisis has cost all of us."
Democrats on the committee also took aim at the report.
"Republicans can write as many reports as they want baselessly attacking the Secretary and forcing their xenophobic rhetoric on the American people, but they’ve done nothing to move the needle on improving border policy," Ranking Member Bennie Thompson said in a statement. "Instead, they criticize to distract from the fact that Republicans simply have no ability to govern and no desire to work with Democrats on real solutions."
DHS officials have repeatedly pushed back against the criticism Mayorkas has received from Republicans, saying it is up to Congress to provide more funding and fix a "broken" immigration system. Officials have also previously highlighted anti-smuggling campaigns and additional funding to counter human and drug smuggling.
"While the House Majority has wasted months trying to score points with baseless attacks, Secretary Mayorkas has been doing his job and working to keep Americans safe," a DHS spokesperson said in response to the report. " Instead of continuing their reckless attacks, Congress should work with us to keep our country safe, build on the progress DHS is making, and deliver desperately needed reforms for our broken immigration system that only legislation can fix."