Alejandro Mayorkas, the secretary for homeland security, refused to call the situation at the southern U.S. border a “crisis” during a House hearing on Wednesday, even though he acknowledged earlier this week that border apprehensions are on pace to reach levels not seen in 20 years.
“Mr. Ranking Member, I’m not spending any time on the language that we use,” Mayorkas told Republican Rep. John Katko during a House Homeland Security Committee hearing when asked if the surge should be characterized as a crisis.
Katko stated that border patrol officials have referred to the recent influx of migrants “a crisis.”
“I am spending time on operational response to the situation at the border,” Mayorkas told Katko. “That’s what I’m focused on.”
The surge marks the first test of the Biden administration’s immigration policies. President Joe Biden has rolled back multiple restrictions on migrants imposed by former President Trump and signed an executive order making it easier for migrants to declare asylum.
Republicans have attributed the surge to Democrats’ relaxed stance on the enforcement of immigration laws.
Mark Morgan, who served as acting commissioner of Customs and Border Protection during the Trump administration, told The Daily Caller last week that Biden’s policies are luring migrants to the southern border.
“[The Biden administration has] delivered hope to these migrants,” Morgan said. “Everybody needs to understand what the definition of ‘hope’ is. The ‘hope’ that they’re providing is, once again, if you make it to our border illegally, we’re going to let you in, and then we’re going to protect you from lawful deportation.”
Whatever the cause of the border rush, Mayorkas said on Tuesday that the Biden administration is “on pace to encounter more individuals on the southwest border than we have in the last 20 years.”
“We are expelling most single adults and families. We are not expelling unaccompanied children,” he said in a statement.
“Our goal is a safe, legal and orderly immigration system that is based on our bedrock priorities: to keep our borders secure, address the plight of children as the law requires, and enable families to be together,” he added.
On Sunday, Mayorkas directed the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to set up shelters near the border to house unaccompanied children.