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Congress takes aim at Homeland chief's credibility, alleging false narrative on asylum claims

Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.) and Rep. Eric Burlinson (R-Mo.) accused Alejandro Mayorkas of misrepresenting the department's own data to help prop up a political narrative surrounding illegal immigration.

Published: March 20, 2023 2:52pm

Updated: March 20, 2023 11:10pm

President Joe Biden's Homeland Security secretary has long angered Republicans with his claims the U.S. southern border is secure. But armed with fresh testimony from the border patrol's top uniformed officer and new statistics, lawmakers are now taking direct aim at Alejandro Mayorkas' credibility.

On Monday, House Oversight and Accountability Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.) demanded fresh evidence from the department and alleged Mayorkas made "misleading statements" about illegal immigrants who were released into the U.S. on asylum claims for having a "credible fear" of their home country.

In a letter to Mayorkas on Monday, Comer and Rep. Eric Burlinson (R-Mo.) requested a specific set of documents related to illegal entires and crossings. 

"The Committee on Oversight and Accountability continues to investigate the Biden Administration's creation of and failure to resolve the worst border crisis in American history," the lawmakers wrote. "You made recent remarks implying that 'the vast majority' of illegal aliens released from Department of Homeland Security (DHS) custody passed an initial threshold credible fear screening."

Comer and Burlinson accused Mayorkas of misrepresenting the department's own data to help prop up a political narrative surrounding illegal immigration.

"DHS's own data contradict your statements," they wrote. "Only a fraction of the illegal aliens DHS personnel apprehend receive a credible fear screening prior to being released into the country." 

The lawmakers said the information currently available amounts to "contradictory data" and makes it "impossible to know the extent of DHS’s catch and release policies." 

The Committee requested a sweeping range of documents and communications related to "DHS's catch and release policies and its limited use of credible fear interviews." Among the information sought were numbers for how many illegal aliens encountered at the border and processed under Title 8 were seeking asylum in the United States or claimed to fear persecution if returned to their home country, as well as how many of them were referred to the Department of Justice (DOJ) for "prosecution for a violation."

The materials are to be handed over to the committee no later than April 3, 2023, the letter instructed.  

"This is the latest attempt by Secretary Mayorkas to spin the facts about President Biden's border crisis," Comer charged Monday in a joint press release with Burlison. "Under the Biden administration's watch, the Department of Homeland Security has gone back to failed catch and release policies. Only a fraction of those released in the U.S. are even screened for a credible fear." 

"Secretary Mayorkas has created the worst border crisis in our nation's history and his recent comments were an attempt to mislead the American people about his actions," Burlison said. "We know that his policies have led to the release of nearly 2 million illegal aliens into the country and the American people deserve to know the full extent of the crisis he has created." 

This latest investigation comes just days after Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz's stunning admission last week that the U.S. no longer has operational control of its southern border

It also comes less than one month after House Judiciary Chairman Rep. Jim Jordan began a separate probe into the murder of an autistic Maryland woman last year allegedly perpetrated by an unaccompanied illegal immigrant minor who is believed to be an MS-13 gang member.

The Ohio Republican sent his own letters to Mayorkas and Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, requesting information related to the killing. The unidentified teen was arrested in late January in connection with the July 2022 murder.

GOP House members had considered impeaching Mayorkas after regaining the majority in 2022, but the campaign to oust him has yet to materialize, with Rep. Matt Gaetz saying last month that it was unlikely to happen. 

"I don't think we're close to having the votes," he said. 

DHS did not reply to a request for comment. 

You can follow Nick on Twitter @NGivasDC

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