Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas got into a heated exchange with a Republican congressman Thursday when asked about Vice President Kamala Harris laughing off questions about going to the US-Mexico border.
Mayorkas scolded Rep. Ralph Norman (R-SC) and called his inquiry “quite unfair and disrespectful.”
Harris has on at least two occasions laughed when asked about visiting the border as illegal crossings hit a two-decade high — most recently when she snarked to NBC reporter Lester Holt, “And I haven’t been to Europe!” when asked about a border trip.
Norman told Mayorkas that he believes Harris, whom President Biden tapped in March to be in charge of stemming the flow of illegal immigrants, would benefit from an in-person visit, likening it to going to a doctor in-person for care.
“If you had a doctor that laughed at you, as the vice president did when asked to come to the border, can you comment on that? Does that make sense to you?” Norman said.
Mayorkas replied, “I consider that question to be quite unfair and disrespectful. And let me be very clear, the president and the vice president have requested and directed me to visit the border, which I have done on multiple occasions.”
Norman interrupted Mayorkas, telling him: “You made the statement that my question was unfair. I’m making the statement that your comments are just words and they’re very unfair. I asked you a simple question, and I would like for you just to answer simply: Is it — does it make sense for the leaders of the free world to go to talk to and see what’s going on at the border?”
The DHS boss insisted that Harris “served as the attorney general of a border state, of California. And she is quite familiar with the situation on the border.”
“But she’s laughing,” Norman said.
“That is absolutely, unequivocally untrue,” Mayorkas said.
Harris has faced pressure for months to visit the border. Two days before she was named as Biden’s migration czar in March, she laughed on an airport runway and said “Not today!” when asked if she would visit the border.
Her trip this month to Guatemala and Mexico to address the “root causes” of migration was overshadowed by questions from reporters about her decision to skip a border trip.
Biden administration officials were reportedly “quietly perplexed” about Harris’ fumbling multiple questions about the border and were concerned that her unforced errors would overshadow her first international trip.
However, Democrats are defending Harris — saying the migration flow won’t end until Central America is a better place to live. Rep. Cindy Axne (D-Iowa) said at a recent town hall, “I think what Vice President Harris is doing is what we need to be doing, what we should have done ages ago, which is going down and work with those countries where people are coming from.”
The White House has tried to stress that Harris’ role is limited to addressing the “root causes” of migration from the Northern Triangle of Central America, which includes El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. The three countries are home to the majority of unaccompanied minors and families surging to the border this year.
Critics argue that Biden administration policies are to blame for the surge in migration — a stance also taken by Guatemala’s president as well as Mexico’s president — and say that he and Harris should see the effects of the crisis on border agents and migrants.
Biden ended former President Donald Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” policy that required most asylum-seekers from Central America to remain in Mexico while US courts reviewed their claims of persecution. Biden also ended construction of Trump’s US-Mexico border wall and urged Congress to pass legislation that would establish a path to citizenship for most illegal immigrants. Republicans said the legislation and Biden’s policy changes created new “pull” factors for illegal immigration.
The number of US-Mexico border detentions soared to a 21-year monthly high of more than 180,000 in May.