WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, joined 37 of her colleagues in a letter—led by Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas)—asking U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to address reports that thousands of migrants in Del Rio, Texas, were released into the interior of the U.S. instead of facing removal as the Biden administration had previously pledged.
Senator Capito and her colleagues write: “While we applaud the administration’s original stated intent to expel the majority of migrants under the CDC’s Title 42 order or to expeditiously remove them, we are concerned that DHS did not actually carry out this plan, deployed resources in a manner that weakened border security, and undermined the deterrent effect of any future statements that the Biden administration will enforce our immigration laws at the border.”
“DHS has openly admitted that the rapid influx of Haitian migrants into the interior was orchestrated by smuggling organizations, which only makes some aspects of the agency’s response more puzzling.”
“The Administration’s response to the ongoing border crisis only makes it more likely that we will continue to experience surges like the one in Del Rio.”
In addition to Senators Capito and Cornyn, the letter was also signed by Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), as well as Senators James Lankford (R-Okla.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Rick Scott (R-Fla.), Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), John Thune (R-S.D.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Todd Young (R-Ind.), Jim Risch (R-Idaho), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.), Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Tim Scott (R-S.C.), John Kennedy (R-La.), Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), and Rob Portman (R-Ohio).
Full text of the letter is here and below.
Dear Secretary Mayorkas:
We are writing to inquire about DHS’s response to the recent surge of migrants into Del Rio, Texas. While we applaud the Administration’s original stated intent to expel the majority of migrants under the CDC’s Title 42 order or to expeditiously remove them, we are concerned that DHS did not actually carry out this plan, deployed resources in a manner that weakened border security, and undermined the deterrent effect of any future statements that the Biden Administration will enforce our immigration laws at the border.
The recent influx of migrants into Del Rio is exactly the kind of situation the CDC’s Title 42 order is meant to address. The New York Times described the conditions under the Del Rio International Bridge as “squalid,” and there is a significant risk of COVID-19 transmission in a migrant population of this size and concentration. You have described 42 U.S.C. 265 as “a public health authority to protect the American public, to protect the communities along the border, and to protect the migrants themselves.” We were thus pleased that the Administration secured a stay pending appeal of U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan’s recent preliminary injunction on the use of the CDC’s Title 42 order with respect to family units. It is vital that DHS preserve this important authority as we continue to battle the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the extent to which migrants in Del Rio were expelled under Title 42 remains unclear. On Friday September 24, when you announced that the area under the Del Rio International Bridge had been cleared, you stated that only 2,000 migrants had been placed on expulsion flights to Haiti. Reports indicate that single adults—which formed only a minority of the population under the Del Rio International Bridge—were prioritized, and that many migrant families were released into the interior.
According to the strategy you released on September 18, 2021, those migrants “who cannot be expelled under Title 42 and do not have a legal basis to remain will be placed in expedited removal proceedings.” Expedited removal is a very effective tool, as DHS demonstrated in June 2005 when it was used to respond to a massive influx of Brazilian nationals in the Rio Grande Valley (RGV) Sector. Following implementation in 2005 in RGV, the number of apprehensions per day dropped precipitously, and it created a strong deterrent effect. Significantly, however, then-U.S. Border Patrol Chief David Aguilar noted that “aliens processed in expedited removal are required to be detained by law.” Media reports suggest that DHS has not followed through on its stated strategy of using expedited removal to address the surge of migrants into Del Rio. According to these reports, senior Executive Branch officials have stated that Haitian migrants have been released into the United States and freed on a “very, very large scale” in recent days, and that many have been released with a Notice to Report, or with parole and a requirement to enroll in Alternatives to Detention. Releasing large numbers of migrants into the interior with the request that they later report to ICE to commence their removal proceedings will only further incentivize illegal migration. And failing to follow through on a promise to expel or expeditiously remove migrants will only further convince them and the smuggling organizations that exploit them that the Biden Administration is not serious about enforcing our immigration laws at the southwest border.
DHS has openly admitted that the rapid influx of Haitian migrants into the interior was orchestrated by smuggling organizations, which only makes some aspects of the agency’s response more puzzling. On September 20, 2021, U.S. Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz stated that “smugglers are significant drivers of the misinformation that gets people to undertake these dangerous journeys.” And Administration officials have communicated to congressional staff that smuggling organizations strategically bused migrants into Ciudad Acuña in order to concentrate migrants at a single location and overwhelm the Border Patrol. Despite knowing this, however, DHS shut down Border Patrol checkpoints in the Del Rio Sector and reassigned those agents to process migrants under the Del Rio International Bridge. DHS also reassigned agents from neighboring sectors in order to handle processing. This approach seems to play directly into the smuggling organizations’ hands, reducing operational control in the area and making it easier to move narcotics and other contraband into the interior.
Finally, the Administration’s response to the ongoing border crisis only makes it more likely that we will continue to experience surges like the one in Del Rio. In August, despite the summer heat, encounters along the southwest border stood above 200,000 for the second month in a row. Until DHS consistently enforces our immigration laws to swiftly remove migrants with weak or nonexistent asylum claims, smuggling organizations will continue to prey on these individuals and convince them to undertake the treacherous journey to our southwest border.
In order to better understand DHS’s response to the recent influx of migrants in Del Rio, we ask that you respond to the following questions by October 19, 2021:
Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter, and we look forward to your response.
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