Romney Presses DHS Secretary on Border Security & Questions FBI Director on Rise of Antisemitic Violence

WASHINGTON—At the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee’s annual “Threats to the Homeland” hearing today, U.S. Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) pressed Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on the Administration’s continued failure to secure the southern border and questioned Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director Christopher Wray about increased threats and violence against religious groups—particularly against Jews and Muslims.

A transcript of his remarks is below and video can be found here.

Senator Romney: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I’m going to spend most of my time looking at the threat against Jewish citizens and against Muslim citizens, as well, and get a sense of what we can do to try and reduce the degree of violence and threat towards these individuals. But before I do, I just want to turn back to the chart that was put up by Senator Johnson earlier on. If you could put that up again or just hold it up again. I find that so alarming and so revealing that it’s a little stunning.

(Romney points at chart)

This is the point, Secretary Mayorkas, when you came into office and if that were my record, I would resign in shame or I would have fashioned a piece of legislation designed to solve that problem and worked like crazy to get it passed. I don’t think you’ve done either one of those things. You said several times to Senator Lankford, for instance, that asylum system is broken and we need to fix the asylum system. But you’ve been there three years! I don’t know that you’ve proposed legislation to fix the asylum system that would change what you’re seeing here. Am I wrong? Have you proposed legislation that would fix asylum?

Secretary Mayorkas: We have a quite a number of suggestions with respect to how to reform the asylum system, Senator Romney, and I’m very eager to work with you…

Romney: In what way? If you had one thing you could do about fixing the asylum system that you think would bring that back from historic levels, what would it be?

Secretary Mayorkas: Well, first of all, Senator, we’re dealing with an unprecedented level of migration in the hemisphere, and that cannot be forgotten in the discussion of what reform is needed and what we are experiencing…

Romney: And what led to that unprecedented level of immigration illegally into the country happens to coincide with your becoming secretary of the department that’s responsible for border security and President Biden becoming president! The key factor that’s changed here is your Administration! And so, again, I don’t know how you can continue to come before this Committee with that record without saying “this is what has to be done!”

Now, I’m going I’m going to turn instead of the topic, which I think is most pertinent right now, with regards to protecting our Jewish citizens. And I look to…Director Wray at the FBI and ask, of the attacks of a religious nature, you said some 60% are directed towards Jews in this country. Is that right?

Director Wray: I did, and that’s before, those are estimates or statistics that are before this conflict began.

Romney: So, it’s probably gone up since then?

Wray: I would expect that. But we don’t have good numbers yet because it’s so fresh. But I think that the point that I was trying to make there, which I really think Americans need to understand, is how wildly disproportionate, if you could ever use a word like proportionate in something like this, that is. 2.4% of the American public [is Jewish], [yet] 60% of religious-based hate crimes. They’re getting it from racially and ethnically motivated violent extremists; ISIS-inspired violent extremists; foreign terrorist organizations, whether they be Sunni, like al Qaeda or ISIS, or Shia, like Hezbollah. And so this is a group that has the outrageous distinction of being uniquely targeted. And they need our help.

Romney: What proportion of these hate crimes has been directed towards Muslims? For instance, if 60% were towards Jews, what percent towards Muslims?

Wray: I don’t have that percentage, but it’s obviously quite a bit smaller than 60% by definition.

Romney: And you attribute that attack on Jews to these hate groups, I presume, these terrorist groups and hate groups that focus on Jews. Is that right?

Wray: Well, yes, but of course they cover the waterfront. And that’s the point that I’m trying to make here. They unfortunately have the distinction of being targeted by every group.

Romney: How do they communicate their directions to attack? What’s their vehicle for getting that out? Certainly not in the New York Times and not on NBC. How do they get their message out?

Wray: Well, social media plays a huge part of it, just like it does messaging on almost everything these days.

Romney: Can you take action or do you take action to try and eliminate, to the extent possible or reduce the access these groups have through social media? Is there a way of doing that or is it like, no, there’s so many different dark web and other vehicles that their message gets out, whether or not we try and interdict it.

Wray: There are instances where foreign terrorist activity in the world of propaganda crosses into the material support to terrorism, to a foreign terrorist organization space. But now you’re getting into a legal area that I’m not the expert on. What we really need is people—eyes and ears in the community—letting us know when they see something of concern so that law enforcement can take appropriate action. And that’s why we spend so much time engaged in outreach to state and local law enforcement as a force multiplier, to the faith based community, as a force multiplier, in effect, and to the private sector. People sometimes overlook that piece, but some guy goes into Home Depot and wants to buy a bunch of ball bearings and fertilizer and doesn’t seem to know anything about what either one could be used for. We want the guy in Home Depot calling law enforcement saying something’s off.

Romney: Well, I deeply appreciate the work that your 37,000 employees of the FBI do to try and keep our homeland safe and have done so remarkably well despite this level of threat. I would at the same time look to see if there’s not something we can do. I understand we don’t want to interdict constitutionally protected speech, but what is constitutionally protected speech? Certainly foreign agents don’t have constitutionally protected speech because they’re not subject to our Constitution. I presume bots don’t have constitutionally protected speech. American citizens do. But even then, citizens offer various forms of hate. And I don’t know how you make the assessment of how you reduce the communication of hate across our social media that’s clearly leading to the level of attacks that are being perpetrated against people of faith, and particularly Jews.

Wray: Well, there is a role for different parts of society in dealing with the issue. Where the FBI fits in is dealing with violence and threats of violence. And when it crosses into that line, it doesn’t matter what you’re ticked off about or who you’re ticked off at, that’s a line you don’t get to cross in our system. And that’s where that’s where the FBI kicks into action.

Romney: Thank you, Director.