Fleischmann Remarks at Homeland Security FY23 Budget Hearing
Thank you, Madam Chairwoman. Welcome, Secretary Mayorkas. I sincerely thank you for joining us today.
Continuing the dialogue that we had on a bipartisan basis before the Easter break will be important in the weeks to come.
I am hopeful you can provide some additional insight into the plan that you released yesterday afternoon that outlines six border security pillars to address the historic number of migrants encountered by our agents and officers.
The crisis border continues to dominate the headlines, in part because of the administration’s plans to repeal Title 42 – which have now fortunately been blocked by court order, at least temporarily.
Roughly half of all migrants your agents and officers encounter illegally crossing the border are subject to removal under the Title 42 authority.
If that tool goes away, it has the potential to profoundly impact border security operations.
Current DHS projections range from 6,000 encounters a month to upwards of 18,000 encounters once Title 42 is lifted. Even at the low end, it would mean a new record number of migrants crossing the border.
Border Patrol stations and immigration infrastructure were designed for single adult men, meaning additional overflow space will be required – and even then, we will likely be stretched beyond capacity.
Before the court order, the CDC determined it was no longer necessary to protect U.S. citizens from COVID transmission. However, at the same time, the CDC attempted to extend the Federal mask mandate for public transportation, including on aircraft, trains, and even local taxis, to May 3rd.
Although the mask mandate was also correctly stricken, in my view, by a federal judge, it illustrates the disjointed nature of this administration’s COVID policy choices.
Beyond the debate around Title 42, this administration continues to send all the wrong messages on border security and immigration enforcement.
Administration officials emphasize the “push” factors that drive people to migrate illegally – such as natural disasters, economic conditions, and the corruption that is endemic to many of the sending countries.
However, they rarely, if ever, acknowledge that their actions have a role to play.
Policy also drives illegal immigration.
Perception drives illegal immigration.
Changing both have to be a part of the department’s strategy because the current messages being sent are contributing factors to the recent surge of illicit migration.
Because right now, our current immigration policies are not working.
We cannot manage our way out of this crisis with more processing capability or increase the ability of non-governmental organizations to address near-term humanitarian needs.
Many migrants our agents encounter are given a notice to appear and sent on their way into the interior of the United States to await a court date, often years into the future – it only encourages more people to come.
A better approach would be to ensure that only those with a legitimate fear of persecution, or those who come to the country legally, are successful.
Everyone else must be swiftly removed and sent home.
Commitment to enforcement of our immigration law needs to be consistent, and right now there are too many loopholes.
Mr. Secretary, I look forward to working with you and your department as we endeavor to seek solutions to address the border security crisis at hand.
Madam Chairwoman, thank you, and I yield back.