(WASHINGTON) — Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Sunday rebuffed calls from leading Republicans to step aside — or risk impeachment — and underscored the critical nature of managing migration challenges “gripping” the Western Hemisphere.
In an interview with ABC “This Week” anchor George Stephanopoulos, Mayorkas said he has no plans of resigning.
Stephanopoulos cited this warning from House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in November: “If Secretary Mayorkas does not resign, House Republicans will investigate. Every order, every action and every failure will determine whether we can begin impeachment inquiry.”
“I’ve got a lot of work to do,” Mayorkas told Stephanopoulos in response. “I’m proud to do it alongside 250,000 incredibly dedicated and talented individuals in the Department of Homeland Security, and I’m going to continue to do my work.”
Mayorkas added that while he has no intention of stepping down, he is ready for the investigations promised by the House GOP, whose lawmakers have been sharply critical of the Biden administration.
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, last year accused Mayorkas of failing “to enforce immigration law and secure the border through all means necessary.”
On “This Week,” however, Mayorkas said there were larger forces at work, such as “a broken immigration system that Congress has failed to repair” and “the greatest displacement of people since World War II.”
As the secretary prepares to join Joe Biden on Biden’s first trip to the southern border as president, authorities there continue to take sweeping action to respond to the tens of thousands of migrants arriving each month.
“This is something that is not unique to the United States,” Mayorkas told Stephanopoulos. “It’s gripping the hemisphere and a regional challenge requires a regional solution.”
Last week, the Biden administration announced that in conjunction with the Mexican government, it expects to send as many as 30,000 unauthorized Cuban, Haitian, Nicaraguan and Venezuelan migrants to Mexico each month.
Stephanopoulos pressed Mayorkas on criticism from some Democrats that this move is similar to former President Donald Trump’s approach to the issue. New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez called it a “disastrous and inhumane relic of the Trump Administration’s racist immigration agenda.”
Mayorkas pointed to congressional inaction on immigration and other factors driving people to leave their countries for the U.S.
“We want individuals who qualify for relief under our laws to come to the United States in a safe and orderly way,” Mayorkas said. “And that is why we are building lawful pathways, so people do not have to place their lives and their life savings in the hands of ruthless smugglers.”
Mayorkas has traveled across Central and South America attempting to engage other governments in solutions to the massive intercontinental diaspora that has strained authorities at every level. More than 2.4 million Venezuelans are currently in Colombia, and other Latin America countries including Costa Rica and Ecuador continue to face “unprecedented migration challenges,” he said.
Responding to whether the administration can end the controversial Title 42 expulsion policy, which cuts access to humanitarian relief for those at the border, Mayorkas said that the federal government remains blocked by a federal court order in Louisiana. Separately, the Supreme Court in February will hear arguments on 19 states appealing to keep Title 42 in place after another federal judge ruled it had to end.
“We are continuing to apply Title 42 until the Supreme Court’s ruling,” Mayorkas said.
He went on to criticize Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who has been busing migrants elsewhere in the country in protest, Abbott has said, of the federal government’s “reckless” approach to immigration.
“We cannot have the rights and the needs of individuals who are seeing humanitarian relief in the United States be exploited for political purposes,” Mayorkas said. “We cannot have unilateral governor action that is not coordinated with the federal government to address an issue that is of national importance.”
Of Biden’s trip Sunday to the southern border, Mayorkas said he hopes to highlight the work his department is doing.
The White House will seek to show El Paso as a model for what can be done with migration management in the face of intense challenges that the city has faced in the past month.
The number of migrants illegally crossing into El Paso is down 70% since the recent surge in December, according to a White House official. Since October, the number of illegal border crossings by Venezuelan migrants into El Paso has dropped to a quarter of what it was before the administration launched the first edition of its latest border crackdown.
“I want him [the president] to see the extraordinary work of the men and women of the United States Border Patrol, Customs and Border Protection’s field operations — how we have surged resources to address a challenge that is not unique to the southern border of the United States,” Mayorkas said. “It’s a challenge that is really gripping our entire hemisphere.”
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