WASHINGTON—At a Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing today, U.S. Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) pressed Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on the lack of action the Administration is taking to secure the border. Senator Romney argued that Administration cannot begin to reform our legal immigration system to meet our country’s economic needs without first securing the southern border. Romney highlighted how his home state of Utah has hospitals that can’t find enough nurses, trucking companies who don’t have enough drivers, and agricultural producers who need help on their farms. He specifically urged the Administration to complete the border wall and keep the “Remain in Mexico” policy and Title 42 in place.
A transcript of Romney’s exchange with Mayorkas can be found below and video can be found here.
Senator Romney: I appreciate the chance to see you, Mr. Secretary, and appreciate your service. I, like several members who have already spoken, can’t begin to understand why you would want to announce the creation of a Misinformation Board. I think it’s a terrible idea. It communicates to the world that we’re going to be spreading propaganda within our country. It’s an awful idea and you ought to disband it. On a separate topic, or related, I do respect my colleague from Kentucky who spoke about misinformation—I would respectfully disagree vehemently on his contention that America is the largest misinformation entity in the history of the Earth. I’m afraid the Soviet Union would deserve that title, if not perhaps other nations. But the Soviet Union continues under a new entity, and new leader with it, Russia continuing to spread disinformation of an extraordinary nature, including that they were not going to invade Ukraine, that Mr. Zelenskyy is a Nazi, and so forth. It’s awful to see, but that doesn’t mean that we have not participated in misinformation. We certainly have, much to our chagrin. I’m pleased with the fact that, by and large, people of highest authority in our government who have so participated have eventually come clean.
I was struck by the chart that Senator Johnson put up and that Senator Portman put up. I’m going to bring that chart back again that Senator Portman had here. And that is this, which is, I mean, it’s so overwhelming, which is this the prior administration in terms of the encounters at the Southwest border. And by the way, we know that in addition to encounters, there are people who go across that are not encountered and that’s roughly 60,000 a month. And during the term of your administration, you’re seeing the red—it’s more than double. My prior experience was as a governor and in the private sector. If I had an executive that was working with me, that I was responsible for, that had a record like that, I would ask them to leave office. I would find a job they’d do better. But I’d say this is an extraordinary failure and I don’t know where all the fault lies. I don’t know whether it’s the fault of the President not allowing you to have the policies you need to have a record that’s more like the prior Administration or whether it’s your own failings as a leader. But one or the other, this is a failed record and would cry for a change in leadership. And I respect you as an individual. I acknowledge you’ve got a tough job. But when you said that you inherited a mess, it’s like, “Wait!” There were policies in place you change. You changed the “Remain in Mexico” policy. You said we’re not going to complete the border wall. And now you’re getting ready to say Title 42—we’re going to pull that away, as well. It is like you are adopting policies which have caused that to happen and the result of that—these are not just bars, these are human lives that are affected. This is fentanyl coming into the country. This is human trafficking. These are lives lost that are associated with that kind of record. I find it appalling. And you say, “Well now we have six pillars. We’ve got six pillars to make this better.” I guess the question is this: Do you believe that in the coming several months that those numbers are going to come down? Because I believe that the six pillars will do nothing to reduce those bars. In fact, the six pillars sound good, but will not change those numbers. And in fact, we’re likely to see numbers that high or higher. Do you predict that those numbers are going to come sharply down to the level they were prior to your administration being in place?
Secretary Mayorkas: Senator, we’re very concerned that the end of Title 42 could result in an increase in encounters at the border. However, that is precisely why in September of 2021, understanding that Title 42 would not be around forever, we began to plan and prepare for its end.
Romney: Those are as accurate as they are off-target. My question is: You are the person responsible for this record. This record is devastating to our country. One of the challenges that I hear in my state, and I don’t know that people can recognize the relation between these things, is that my state is desperate for more workers. We need more truck drivers, we need more health care workers, we need more nurses. Our agriculture community needs more workers to harvest the crops. Our dairy farmers need people to work on the dairy farms. They want to get visas, more visas to bring people in who are available to work in our country, desperately needed here. But we can’t make these kinds of reforms to our legal immigration system because the illegal immigration system is a disaster. So we can’t solve the problems of legal immigration until you secure our border, a job you’re not doing.
Mayorkas: So in other words Senator, we have a problem, and one of the solutions is legislation?
Romney: The solution is to do what was done prior to you taking office!
Mayorkas: And [Congress] will not deliver the solution because we have the problem?
Romney: I’m sorry, I didn’t follow that logic. You have a problem—that’s the problem. I have a solution—finish the wall, keep the “Remain in Mexico” policy, and keep Title 42 in place. You do that and guess what–this is going to come back to the way it was. If instead you continue on the course that you’re on, you’re going to continue to see that, whether there are six pillars or a thousand pillars.
Mayorkas: So I have a number of things to say, and let me first articulate my logic. You speak of, and correctly so, the need for labor in this country. There was a very powerful article about that on the front page of the Wall Street Journal just a few weeks ago. This Administration, the Biden-Harris Administration, has spoken of the need for safe, orderly, and legal immigration so that people don’t need to take that journey.
Romney: We will never have the labor that we need and the legal immigration system fixed to get us the visas we desperately need until you secure the border. You are incapable of doing that with the policies you described. Only by returning to policies that were there before can you do it. That has got to be done or we need to have new leadership to do that.
Mayorkas: I very much look forward to discussing this with you because legislation is a solution and the single most enduring solution to the problem of regular migration that this country has suffered for more than twenty years.
Romney: We have told you time and time again we will put in place the legislation that solves our legal immigration woes once you secure the border. What we will not do is legalize all sorts of individuals who come here illegally, at the same time people keep flowing in illegally. You’ve got to secure the border.