Speaker-Presumptive Targets Mayorkas

While Dem senator says his party “not even close” to understanding the border

By Andrew R. Arthur on November 23, 2022

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) was in El Paso, Texas, this week, where he called on DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to resign or face an impeachment inquiry due to his failure to secure the Southwest border. That came one day after Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) was quoted as stating that Democrats nationally are “not even close” to recognizing the “complexity” of the border or the “frustrations people have” about what is going on there. Things are heating up as the GOP prepares to upset the balance of power in Washington.

The Humanitarian Disaster at the Southwest Border. Joe Biden was the lucky recipient of what Rodney Scott, his first Border Patrol chief, described in September 2021 as “arguably the most effective border security in” U.S. history. The new president, however, quickly allowed things there to “disintegrate” as “inexperienced political appointees” ignored “common sense border security recommendations from experienced career professionals.”

You don’t have to trust Chief Scott, however (though you should). Just look at the numbers.

Since Biden took office, Border Patrol migrant apprehensions at the Southwest border have soared. In FY 2021, agents there apprehended nearly 1.66 million illegal entrants, a level never hit in any preceding fiscal year. Even that total did not reflect the actual number of aliens who entered illegally, however, because it did not include an estimated 389,000 “got-aways”, illegal entrants who successfully evaded agents and entered illegally that fiscal year.

Things just got worse from there. In FY 2022, agents at the Southwest border apprehended more than 2.2 million illegal migrants, again not counting an estimated 599,000 got-aways last fiscal year.

And there is no sign of improvement anytime soon. Last month, agents set a new apprehension record for the month of October (monthly records go back 23 years), taking into custody more than 204,000 illegal entrants — an average of nearly 6,590 apprehensions per day — while an additional 64,000 got aways evaded agents to make their way into the United States.

As bad as those numbers are, they are set to get worse. The sole impediment to the immediate entry of the flood of migrants across U.S.-Mexico line has been a series of public health-related orders issued by the CDC pursuant to Title 42 of the U.S. Code, which directed the expulsion of aliens who have crossed that border illegally.

Even that impediment will soon be gone, as on November 17, a federal judge in D.C. vacated the CDC Title 42 orders, and only reluctantly acceded to an administration request to stay that order until December 21 to give DHS time to prepare for what it has warned could be up to 18,000 illegal entrants per day post-Title 42.

Mayorkas. The Secure Fence Act of 2006 mandates that the DHS secretary “take all actions [he] determines necessary and appropriate to achieve and maintain operational control over the entire international land and maritime borders of the United States”.

Often, Congress inserts vague terms in legislation and leaves it up to the executive branch to fill in the details. Lawmakers did not make that mistake in the Secure Fence Act, instead defining “operational control” explicitly as “the prevention of all unlawful entries into the United States, including entries by terrorists, other unlawful aliens, instruments of terrorism, narcotics, and other contraband” (emphasis added).

Clearly, Mayorkas has failed to satisfy that mandate, but nonetheless has asserted at numerous congressional hearings that he has achieved operational control and that the border is, in fact, secure. And, most recently, Mayorkas denied under Senate questioning that there was even a “crisis” at the Southwest border, instead portraying the situation there as “a significant challenge”.

McCarthy. On November 15, McCarthy won a vote of the House Republican conference to serve as its leader. That puts the congressman from California in the position of speaker-presumptive once Republicans take control of the lower chamber in January.

Still, the leader faces resistance from a handful of members on the right in his party who believe it’s time for new leadership. Republicans will be taking control with a slim majority, and McCarthy cannot afford to lose many votes for speaker from those in his own party.

McCarthy included border security in his September campaign document, “Commitment to America”, and conservatives are expecting him to deliver on his pledge to “combat illegal immigration”. The battlefield for that fight is the Southwest border, and the gentleman from California is taking it right to the secretary of DHS.

Sen. Kelly. McCarthy is not the only one on the Hill who is talking about the disaster at the Southwest border.

In a November 21 interview in the Washington Post, Sen. Kelly was asked whether he thought that “Democrats nationally have recognized the complexity of the issue and the frustrations that people have”. The senator’s response:

Absolutely not. Not even close. When I first got to Washington, it didn’t take me long to realize that there are a lot of Democrats who don’t understand our southern border and a lot of Republicans who just want to talk about it. Don’t necessarily want to do anything about it, just want to use it politically. So my approach has been — to the extent that we could and can — to make progress on securing it, but also doing it in a way that’s in accordance with our ethics and our values, not to demonize people.

I will note that Kelly at times seems to want it both ways when it comes to the border.

For example, when Republicans proposed in August to continue Title 42 by statute in an amendment to a “budget reconciliation” bill that could have passed with 51 votes in the Senate, Kelly voted against it, only to vote for a similar amendment that would have required 60 votes (which it did not receive).

Still, having been reelected in the November midterms, Kelly is protected by the six-year term granted senators in the constitution, and could have taken a pass on calling out members of his own party for their inability to grasp the situation at the border. To his credit, he didn’t, though later in that interview he pled for “comprehensive immigration reform”, in particular for “DREAMers”, aliens who came to this country illegally as children.

That is code for “amnesty”, and as I have reported, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) recently (implicitly) admitted that amnesty for DREAMers is simply a stalking horse that will lead to "citizenship for all 11 million, or however many” aliens are unlawfully in the United States.

Walls Closing in on Mayorkas? With the impending arrival of the 118th Congress in January, the walls may not be exactly closing in on Mayorkas and Biden’s border policies, but the room is getting stuffier.

To attain the speakership, McCarthy will have to prove to those on the right of his conference that he is serious about illegal immigration and that he will hold the White House and the secretary accountable for the disaster unfolding on the Southwest border. On Tuesday, he took the first step in doing so.