Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Tuesday told Congress he’s unaware that cartels use illegal immigrants to flood the border and sneak over dangerous contraband.
That admission surprised Sen. John Cornyn, a Texas Republican who pointed out that Attorney General Merrick Garland acknowledged the strategy in his own testimony to Congress earlier this month.
And some of Mr. Mayorkas’ top Border Patrol agents testified to Congress about the strategy last month.
“You’ve simply lost all credibility, Mr. Secretary,” Mr. Cornyn said.
Mr. Mayorkas was testifying to the Senate Judiciary Committee, where Republicans pummeled him over the chaos at the southern border.
They particularly bristled when Mr. Mayorkas said the “scourge of fentanyl” is not tied to the record numbers of illegal immigrants being caught.
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Mr. Cornyn challenged Mr. Mayorkas over the linkage, saying the cartels “flood the border” with people to overwhelm agents.
“I am not aware of that as a strategy,” Mr. Mayorkas said.
He went on to call fentanyl a “significant challenge,” but said it’s one that predates the Biden administration. He also said most of the detected supply comes through border crossings, not sneaked between the ports of entry.
John Modlin, the Border Patrol’s chief agent in Arizona’s Tucson sector, told Congress last week the cartels use migrants to keep agents distracted.
“Task saturation is a term we use to describe a tactic where smuggling organizations split large groups of migrants into many smaller groups. These small groups are then directed to illegally cross the border all at once and at different locations, effectively saturating the area with migrants and exhausting our response capability,” he said.
Mr. Mayorkas asserted the administration has “operational control” of the border — at least according to his own definition.
He said he defines that as “maximizing the resources that we have to deliver the most effective results.”
“The Border Patrol agents and all the personnel of the Department of Homeland Security are doing heroic work in that regard,” the secretary said.
He rejected the definition of “operational control” written into law, which requires detection and deterrence of every attempted illegal entry. He said under that definition the border has never been under control.
Republicans said no matter what the definition, things have gotten worse under Mr. Mayorkas.
“Look what’s happened. And you know how it happened? You took all the policies that were working, and you changed them, and it’s blown up in our face,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican.
• Stephen Dinan can be reached at email@example.com.
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