Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., blocked quick consideration of President-elect Joe Biden’s pick to lead the Department of Homeland Security, citing Biden’s proposals for “amnesty” for illegal immigrants and answers about border security.
Alejandro Mayorkas had answered questions earlier in the day at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Homeland Security Committee. When committee members moved to bypass full committee consideration to speed up his confirmation, Hawley objected.
“On Day 1 of his administration, President-elect Biden has said he plans to unveil an amnesty plan for 11 million immigrants in this nation illegally,” the populist senator said in a statement. “This comes at a time when millions of American citizens remain out of work and a new migrant caravan has been attempting to reach the United States. Mr. Mayorkas has not adequately explained how he will enforce federal law and secure the southern border given President-elect Biden’s promise to roll back major enforcement and security measures.”
Hawley was referring to Biden’s plan to provide a pathway to citizenship for those in the country illegally. Expected to be unveiled on Wednesday, the plan reportedly includes an eight-year path to citizenship, along with other measures, including green cards for recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) programs.
The Washington Post reported that the bill also includes expanded forms of legal immigration, provisions to address “push” factors south of the border, and some border security measures.
At the hearing, Mayorkas spoke positively about the legislation and told Hawley it would fix a “broken immigration system.”
“I would be privileged to work with Congress to pass immigration reform legislation that provides that path and provides a permanent solution to what is clearly a broken system,” he said.
Hawley had asked Mayorkas whether he would allow funding that had already been designated for the wall at the southern border to be used. President Trump’s administration built approximately 450 miles of wall, and officials say there are approximately 350 extra miles funded.
Mayorkas noted that Biden has promised not to allow any more wall to be built under his administration.
“I would execute President-elect Biden’s commitment in adherence to the laws that guide us,” he said. He later said he would follow the law, and he would need to see if DHS was permitted to stop the funding and what the options were.
Hawley was not impressed with his answers.
“Just today, he declined to say he would enforce the laws Congress has already passed to secure the border wall system,” Hawley said in his statement. “Given this, I cannot consent to skip the standard vetting process and fast-track this nomination when so many questions remain unanswered.”
The block means it will take longer to get Mayorkas’ confirmation out of the Homeland Security Committee onto the Senate floor for a confirmation vote.
Four years ago, the Senate confirmed President Trump’s first DHS secretary, John Kelly, on Inauguration Day — he was one of two cabinet secretaries confirmed that day.
Fox News’ Jason Donner and Chad Pergram contributed to this report.