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Mayorkas blames Mexico, Congress for historic border surge; calls for more funding and 'reform'

PoliticsMayorkas blames Mexico, Congress for historic border surge; calls for more funding and 'reform'

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Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas visited Eagle Pass, Texas on Monday to discuss the ongoing crisis at the southern border.

During a press conference, Mayorkas acknowledged there were unprecedented levels of illegal crossings that put “tremendous stress on our broken immigration system [and] our under-resourced facilities.” 

mayorkas eagle pass

U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas holds a press conference at a U.S. Border Patrol station on January 08, 2024 in Eagle Pass, Texas. (John Moore/Getty Images)

“Our immigration system is outdated and broken and has been in need of reform for literally decades,” Mayorkas said. 

He called on Congress to provide additional funding for more officers and judges who can resolve asylum claims quickly. Mayorkas also blamed historic surges in December on a lack of funding for the Immigration Enforcement Agency in Mexico. 

MAYORKAS TELLS BORDER PATROL AGENTS THAT ‘ABOVE 85%’ OF ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS RELEASED INTO US: SOURCES

The comments came days ahead of an impeachment hearing into the DHS Secretary over his handling of the southern border. Under his watch, hundreds of thousands of migrants crossed into the U.S., with Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) sources telling Fox News Digital last month that there were more than 276,000 migrant encounters near the end of December, setting a new record for crossings in a month. 

Migrant crisis continues at the border between the United States and Mexico

Texas National Guard take security measures as hundreds of migrants are attempting to reach the United States border to seek humanitarian asylum in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico on January 02, 2024. (David Peinado/Anadolu via Getty Images)

The previous record was set in September when officials saw 269,735 encounters. The number includes illegal immigrants encountered between ports of entry and migrants entering at ports of entry via the CBP One app.

If impeached, Mayorkas would be the first Cabinet secretary to receive the black mark since 1876. 

In Eagle Pass, Mayorkas pushed back on the notion that DHS was not enforcing the border. 

SENATE NOT EXPECTED TO RELEASE TEXT ON BORDER SECURITY PACKAGE THIS WEEK 

“Some have accused DHS of not enforcing our nation’s laws. This could not be further from the truth,” Mayorkas said. “There is nothing I take more seriously than our responsibility to uphold the law and the men and women of DHS are working around the clock to do so.” 

He noted that, through the end of the fiscal year, “DHS removed or returned more noncitizens without a basis to remain in the United States than in any other five-month period in the last ten years.” 

“In fact, the majority of all migrants encountered at the Southwest border throughout this administration have been removed, returned, or expelled,” he said. 

Mayorkas presser

FILE: U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas holds a press conference at a U.S. Border Patrol station on January 08, 2024, in Eagle Pass, Texas.  (John Moore/Getty Images)

The comments appeared to be at odds with remarks he made earlier during a private meeting with agents in Eagle Pass, admitting to Border Patrol agents that the current rate of release for illegal immigrants apprehended at the southern border is “above 85%.” 

As officials continue to be overwhelmed at the U.S. border, many court dates for asylum claims are being set years into the future including, in one case, as late as 2031.

Senate negotiators met Monday morning as they raced to finish work on the legislative text for a bipartisan border security proposal aimed at reducing the number of migrants who travel to the southern border to apply for asylum protections in the U.S.

The small group of senators has been working for months on the legislation after Republicans insisted on pairing border policy changes with supplemental funding for Ukraine, but disagreements remained.

The Biden administration has also been directly involved in the talks as the president tries to both secure support for a top foreign policy priority — funding Ukraine’s defense against Russia — and demonstrate action on a potential political weakness — his handling of the historic number of migrants seeking asylum at the U.S. border with Mexico.

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Biden has faced staunch resistance from conservatives to his $110 billion request for a package of wartime aid for Ukraine and Israel as well as other national security priorities. In the Senate, Republicans have demanded that the funding be paired with border security changes.

Fox News’ Houston Keene and Adam Shaw contributed to this report. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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