FIRST ON FOX: Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., on Wednesday wrote to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, accusing the department of a “clear violation” of immigration law as it releases migrants into the interior of the U.S. without a court date.
Biggs, who is part of the Border Security Caucus, was responding to Mayorkas’ testimony last week about how migrants are regularly released without a court date — a Notice to Appear — instead being told to check in with their local Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office instead.
“It is our policy to issue a notice to appear to individuals who are permitted entry into the United States to make their claim,” Mayorkas said at a Senate hearing last week. “Ideally, they are issued the notice to appear at the Border Patrol station. If we are not able to do that, the objective is to issue them a notice to appear at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office to which they are directed.
Customs and Border Protection had previously said that CBP had issued notices to appear at ICE offices due to overcrowding at Border Patrol stations as providing NTAs can take hours.
“To reduce confusion, beginning on March 24, CBP included a notation on the form providing these individuals with a notice to report to an ICE office to commence their immigration proceedings,” the agency said in April.
“Aliens are being released from DHS [Department of Homeland Security] custody without being issued NTAs and DHS is unreasonably expecting these illegal entrants to voluntarily report to ICE to receive a charging document and court date,” Biggs wrote on Wednesday. “This is fatuous and an abdication of your statutory obligation.”
Biggs points to the Immigration and Nationality Act, which says inadmissible aliens must be detained while awaiting expedited removal from the U.S. He says the language is clear that “detention is mandatory.”
“Notwithstanding very specific exceptions, the INA does not allow DHS to simply release aliens en masse into the interior of the United States without scheduling a hearing with the immigration courts,” he argues. “Thus, your decision to release hundreds of thousands of aliens into the United States without an NTA is a clear violation of the law.”
Biggs asks DHS to respond with how many migrants have reported to ICE after being released without an NTA, and how many who have not been reported have been arrested and removed.
“Secretary Mayorkas needs to be held accountable. The Biden administration’s refusal to address the chaos at the southern border is causing the crisis to worsen each day,” Biggs said in a statement to Fox. “Instead of incentivizing illegal aliens to flood across our border, he must enforce the law and secure our nation’s sovereignty.”
DHS told Fox that it responds to congressional correspondence through official channels.
The letter comes amid increasing pressure on Mayorkas from Republicans for his handling of the crisis of the southern border.
Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, told Mayorkas last week that statements the DHS chief made, in which he indicated he did not see the dramatic increase in migrant numbers as a major problem, were “extraordinary and extremely damning.”
Meanwhile, three Trump-era DHS officials on Tuesday called for President Biden to dismiss Mayorkas, accusing him of a “reckless abandonment of enforcing America’s immigration laws and securing our borders.”