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DHS Secretary Mayorkas faces a partisan divide over Title 42 in Capitol Hill hearings

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas testifies before the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday.
Nicholas Kamm
AFP via Getty Images
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas testifies before the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday.

Political divisions over lifting Title 42are playing out on on Capitol Hill, where DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas is testifying before the House Judiciary Committee, known for its heated partisan confrontations.

The public health order has been blocking many migrants at the border since the start of the COVID pandemic. And while the Department of Homeland Security has released a detailed plan on how to handle the likely influx of migrants expected at the border once Title 42 lifts on May 23, Republicans and some Democrats have been vocal that the plan isn't enough.

At the hearing, Mayorkas addressed the administration's plan.

"Under this administration, our department has been executing a comprehensive strategy to secure our borders and rebuild our immigration system," Mayorkas said in his opening remarks. "With the Title 42 public health order set to be lifted, we expect migration levels to increase as smugglers seek to take advantage of and profit from vulnerable migrants."

Mayorkas said the administration will continue to enforce immigration laws, but said, "We inherited a broken and dismantled system that is already under strain."

He said the department has "effectively" managed the border but immigration reform can only come from Congress.

Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, the ranking member on the committee, accused Mayorkas of being "out of touch" with the American people and other Republican members expressed similar outrage at the administration's handling of the border.

Democrats on the committee have so far defended the department's plan once Title 42 lifts and have been critical of Republican members' lines of questioning, which has left little time for Mayorkas to fully answer.

"Just in case there's any mystery about why you're not being allowed to answer questions or why they're not interested in your reference to data ... they're not actually interested in that," Rep. David Cicilline of Rhode Island said.

"There's a whole plan about what this hearing is about and it's about creating Fox News spots that they can use for politics," he said.

On Wednesday, Mayorkas testified in front of the House Homeland Security Committee and was also met with aggressive questioning from Republicans who repeatedly used the word failure to describe the administration's handling of the border. Some Republicans called on the secretary to resign.

It's also possible that Mayorkas will face pressure from Democrats who support lifting Title 42 and have been critical of any attempts to delay to ending the order.

Progressive Democrats, including Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington and Veronica Escobar of Texas, are planning to hold a news conference after Mayorkas testifies Thursday afternoon.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Deepa Shivaram
Deepa Shivaram is a multi-platform political reporter on NPR's Washington Desk.