Michael Godek/Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) — Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said that the DHS has a “perennially insufficient budget” and pushed for each agency to receive needed funds, including efforts to secure the southern border, he testified before two different congressional committees on Wednesday.

Mayorkas, who the House voted to impeach in February over his handling of the migrant surge at the southern border, spoke about the president’s fiscal 2025 budget request as Republicans blasted him over his handling of the border.

The budget includes billions of dollars to help fight terrorism, secure the United States’ borders, strengthen disaster resilience and more, Mayorkas said. The budget also includes $4.7 billion for the Southwest Border Contingency Fund to fund border security measures and immigration enforcement efforts along the southern border.

“The dedicated public servants of DHS deserve full support, and the American people deserve the results a fully resourced DHS can deliver,” Mayorkas said in his opening statement to the House Appropriations Committee. “The funding opportunities outlined in the President’s Fiscal Year 2025 Budget for DHS are critical to meeting both goals.”

Mayorkas called the situation at the southwest border a crisis.

“Yes, I would,” he said, when asked whether he would call the situation at the southern border a crisis. “As a matter of fact, I work every single day with the men and women in the Department of Homeland Security to not only strengthen security of our southern border as well as the northern border, and we deploy personnel from different parts of our department whenever the situation so warrants and the situation at the border.”

He also called on Congress to pass the bipartisan border bill — a package Senate negotiators worked on with the DHS and Mayorkas. In February, the Senate didn’t pass the bipartisan foreign aid bill with major new border provisions. The Senate then removed the border provisions — voting only on the national security supplemental, which passed. Speaker Mike Johnson rejected that bill and hasn’t brought it to the House floor for a vote.

“Only Congress can fix our broken and outdated system, and only Congress can address our need for more border patrol agents, asylum officers and immigration judges, facilities, and technology,” Mayorkas said at the House hearing. “Our administration worked closely with a bipartisan group of senators to reach agreement on a national security supplemental package — one that would make the system changes that are needed and give DHS the tools and resources necessary to meet today’s border security challenges. We remain ready to work with you to pass this tough, fair, bipartisan agreement.”

In the Senate’s Homeland Security budget hearing later Wednesday, Mayorkas repeated the call to pass a border deal, saying the agreed-upon border legislation would have addressed problems he had personally observed for decades.

“My first encounter with the immigration system — the broken immigration system — was in the 1990s when I served as a federal prosecutor in California and I learned that the system was fundamentally broken and it remains so,” Mayorkas said.

“This piece of bipartisan legislation would have been the most transformative change to our broken immigration system, not only for the resources it provided, but for the changes in the law, that it delivered. It would have brought … such extraordinary fairness in a system that has suffered backlogs and interminable timelines in the processing of claims,” he said.

Mayorkas said the bill would have changed the “risk calculus” for migrants deciding whether to embark on a dangerous journey north. This deterrence effect would have been an “absolute game changer,” Mayorkas said.

Questioned by Republican Sen. John Kennedy about unauthorized immigrants counting for congressional representation, Mayorkas said it was “preposterous” and “disrespectful” to suggest the department has allowed illegal immigration to freely occur.

During the House hearing, Mayorkas was pressed about resources being used to secure the southern border, taking heat from Republicans, who are pushing for his ouster.

“Mr. Secretary, we’ve seen gamesmanship out of the administration and gimmicks and I called for your resignation last year, and I stand by my request,” Rep. Ashley Hinson, R-Iowa, told him.

The House voted to impeach Mayorkas on Feb. 13 by a vote of 214-213 over what Republicans claimed was his failure to enforce border laws amid a “crisis” of high illegal immigration, allegations the secretary denied as “baseless.”

The DHS and Mayorkas have criticized the impeachment efforts. His impeachment proceedings are set to begin next week.

Asked by Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md., about migrants who are committing crimes in the country, Mayorkas said Immigration and Customs Enforcement works with other agencies to find and remove them.

“I believe that when an individual poses a threat to public safety, or national security, your local or state jurisdiction should cooperate with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement for the swift detention and removal of that individual,” he said.

While the surge of migrants at the southern border hit an all-time high in December 2023 at 302,000, in the past year, the DHS has deported 630,000 migrants, the vast majority of whom crossed the southwest border — including more than 99,000 individual family members, a DHS official said.

Mayorkas was also asked about communities that don’t comply with an ICE detainer — which is when an illegal migrant is flagged for removal while they are in a local jail. Some communities do not allow for the detainer to be executed.

“We continue to work with local jurisdictions to persuade them that when an individual poses a threat to public safety, and the individual has a detainer placed on him or her that they honor the detainer and not release the individual onto the streets, but rather turn the individual over immigration and customs enforcement,” he said.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.