Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Wednesday blamed long work hours for his inability — for a second day — to provide basic information to Congress on how many migrants detained at the border have been released or returned to their home countries.
During a virtual hearing with the Homeland Security Committee focused on “Worldwide Threats to the Homeland: 20 Years After 9/11”, Mayorkas had a tense exchange with Rep. Carlos Giminez, who pressed him on the matter.
Giminez first asked Mayorkas to clarify how many immigrants have been apprehended at the border so far this year, to which the secretary said was around 1.5 million.
“Let me ask you, [of the] 1.5 million that we’ve apprehended, how many people have been returned?” he asked. “How many people are being detained and how many people have been dispersed?”
Mayorkas did not provide any numbers but said he would be able to provide Giminez with “specific data” later on.
Seemingly dissatisfied, Giminez pushed further, criticizing Mayorkas for not having the data when he was asked the same question at a Senate hearing the day before.
“I think you’d be a little bit better prepared now that you’ve been asked that question,” he said.
The secretary fired back, putting blame on his long hours, “I worked 18 hours,” he griped, claiming that when he returned from yesterday’s hearing, he was focused on the situation rather than finding data.
Giminez then accused Mayorkas of not having any estimation of how many immigrants have been released into the US. The secretary further assured that he will provide the data, but refrained from giving any estimation to remain precise and accurate during the hearing.
The hearing comes days after thousands of migrants illegally crossed the border into Del Rio, Texas, where over 10,000 camped under a bridge waiting to be processed over the weekend.
Among those migrants, thousands of Haitians have reportedly been released into the US, despite Mayorkas warning migrants will be sent home.
A US official told the Associated Press that in recent days, Haitians have been freed on “a very, very large scale” and given notices to appear at an immigration office within 60 days.
On Monday, Mayorkas traveled to Del Rio attempting to make clear that the southern border is “not open.”
“If you come to the United States illegally, you will be returned. Your journey will not succeed and you will be endangering your life and your family’s lives. This administration is committed to developing safe, orderly and humane pathways for migration. This is not the way to do it,” he said.