Mayorkas pressed on border; GOP pushes ‘terrorist’ label for cartels
WASHINGTON (NewsNation) — U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas was back on Capitol Hill Wednesday for his second round of questioning before the Senate Judiciary Committee for matters related to the southern border.
Mayorkas appeared before the committee for budgetary matters but it provided Senators another opportunity to question the Biden administration’s stance on issues at the U.S.-Mexico border.
At one point Wednesday, Mayorkas was asked if he would call the situation at the border a “crisis.” He wouldn’t use that language and instead described it as a “significant challenge,” a response that exasperated Republican senators.
He did, however, highlight the growing influence of the cartels
“I believe (drug cartels) have their tentacles in the United States as they have for many years,” said Mayorkas. “They have grown significantly in size and capability since my time as a federal prosecutor.”
He also acknowledged that his agency is facing recruitment challenges, saying when it comes to personnel along the southern border, “We have some vacancies to fill.”
Republicans have been pushing the idea for weeks now that some of the top cartels should be labeled as foreign terrorist organizations. Senators Lindsey Graham (S.C.) and Mike Lee (Utah) went a step further, putting forth potential legislation that would label nine different cartels terrorist organizations.
Graham and Lee said the legislation would help target the financing operations of these cartels. Their bill also calls for the formation of a task force — which would include top members of the president’s cabinet — to address combatting Mexican cartels.
Mayorkas was asked Wednesday if he believes the cartels should receive the designation. He said it’s a difficult question, as he said, one would have to determine the line between criminality and terrorism.
There are nearly 70 groups that have been designated by the U.S. Department of State as foreign terrorist organizations. The majority of those designations happened after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.