U.S. Senator James Lankford (R-Okla.) is upset.
As a member of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, he’s spoken repeatedly about the fact that illegal immigrants are pouring across the southern border at the highest rate in more than 15 years. Now he’s outraged by a new report from The Washington Times released Wednesday that, despite assurances from the Biden administration, few of the illegal immigrants caught and released at the border have voluntarily turned themselves into Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Homeland Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told the committee there is a “high rate of compliance.”
Instead, the appearance rate is less than 25 percent — and could be significantly lower. That means tens of thousands of illegal immigrants have defied orders from the federal government and are now living in the U.S., free from the rules legal immigrants must live under.
Lankford has raised this issue again and again as a member of the Homeland Security Committee. His fellow committee member, Sen. Maggie Hassan, has not.
Hassan declined to respond to multiple requests for comment from NHJournal after the Times’ report appeared. It’s yet another hot-button political issue where Hassan’s claim to be a moderate is being tested.
Hassan’s vote against a ban on “sanctuary cities” while serving in the state Senate was highlighted during her U.S. Senate race against Kelly Ayotte in 2016. Earlier this year, she joined her fellow Democrats in voting down an amendment to cut the bailout funding to sanctuary cities as part of the COVID relief plan.
At the same time, she also was one of eight Senate Democrats to vote with the GOP and stop illegal immigrants from getting COVID-19 relief checks. (Sen. Jeanne Shaheen voted in favor.)
Still, she has yet to use her position on Congress’s top homeland security legislative body to promote strengthened borders or slow the surge of illegal crossings since Biden has taken office.
During a May Senate hearing on the crisis at the border, for example, Lankford questioned Mayorkas at length about the number of illegal immigrants who have been caught and released.
Lankford told Mayorkas that Homeland Security staffers on the ground have reported 19,000 people were caught and released without being given notices to appear, and asked Mayorkas how many actually went to collect their notices. Mayorkas didn’t give him a number.
While Lankford grilled Mayorkas on the border crisis and the fact that ICE removals have fallen by 50 percent from January to April, Hassan didn’t ask a single question on the growing crisis, instead focusing on the vetting process for sponsors of unaccompanied minors.
“ICE removals have fallen anyway by 50 percent from January to April of this year and by 70 percent from October to April of this year,” said Lankford. “So I want to ask you, are you complying with the federal court order that ruled that you can’t just stop, you have to continue to be able to remove people that have a final order of removal?”
“We are complying with the court order, Senator,” replied Mayorkas.
Lankford went on to question Mayorkas on the potential that ICE has failed to remove potential sex offenders from the country because they didn’t meet the aggravated felony criteria. Again, Hassan didn’t address the topic.
Not surprisingly, Republicans have taken note. The National Republican Senatorial Committee released a statement Wednesday highlighting the new report on the catch-and-release failure and calling out “Senate Democrats like … Maggie Hassan who has done nothing but enable Biden’s radical amnesty and open borders agenda. When will they decide to start doing their job and stop the chaos at the Southern Border?”
For Granite Staters who care about border security, Hassan’s silence is concerning. However, advocates for refugees have reasons to wonder about her stance as well.
On Wednesday, Mayorkas warned Cuban and Haitian asylum seekers who flee to the United States on boats that will not be allowed to enter the country. Cuba is currently embroiled in nationwide protests against President Miguel Díaz-Canel and the Communist regime.
“Allow me to be clear. If you take to the sea, you will not come to the United States,” Mayorkas said.
The Biden administration’s obvious double-standard inspired a prompt response.
“It seems for Joe Biden and [Vice President] Kamala Harris the only immigrants on the face of the earth that they don’t want to come to America are Cubans,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said Wednesday. “That’s the only instance in which the Biden administration is expressing a resistance to people coming here illegally.”
A majority of Cuban American voters identify as Republican, while most non-Cuban Latino voters identify as Democrat.
Hassan has been silent yet again. She declined to comment to NHJournal, she has not released a statement mentioning Cuba and, while her social media page gives a shout-out to whitewater rafting and a local baseball player, she offers no support to the Cuban protesters or condemnation of the Communist regime.
Nor has she criticized Mayorkas or the Biden administration for threatening to turn away Cuban refugees who might arrive at America’s shores.
Mayorkas, himself a Cuban immigrant whose family fled to the United States as refugees after Fidel Castro’s violent Communist revolution, previously pledged to “oversee the protection of all Americans and those who flee persecution in search of a better life for themselves and their loved ones.”
Hassan declined to comment.