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WASHINGTON—United States Senator Bill Hagerty (R-TN), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, today pressed U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, the nation’s chief law enforcement officer, on the Biden Administration’s messaging to cartels and would-be migrants seeking to cross the border.
While there has been no change to the Biden Administration’s policy of effectively open borders and its practice of catch-and-release, this week Vice President Harris feigned interest in border security and adopted a new rhetorical position, telling would-be migrants “Do Not Come”. Yet within 48 hours of the Vice President’s press conference debuting this new rhetorical position, the Administration has now reversed itself again. When Hagerty asked Garland today if he would echo Vice President Kamala Harris’ “Do Not Come” message to would-be migrants, the Attorney General declined to do so.
During the questioning, Garland repeatedly sought to evade answering whether migrants who arrive illegally and whose asylum claims are found to be meritless should be deported. As Hagerty noted, the chief law enforcement officer’s reluctance and hesitancy to state unequivocally that there are repercussions for violating our laws and assert that our immigration laws will be enforced is indicative of why we are witnessing record high illegal immigration.
Guatemala President Giammattei has attributed the surge in illegal immigration north to the new open door message coming from the new Administration in Washington, which Giammattei also told Hagerty during the Senator’s recent CODEL to Guatemala and Mexico in May.
Hagerty: “Just this week in Guatemala, Vice-President Harris sent a message to those that were perhaps contemplating coming to our country illegally: do not come. Is that a message that you can deliver, Attorney General, sitting right there, a message to these people do not come to our country?
Garland: “I think that Vice President Harris has been very deeply involved in the kind of law enforcement and other requirements that we’re looking to set up. She was instrumental in moving us to establish this joint task force tode-incentivize and to reduce traffic from the Northern Triangle countries, down through Mexico, into the United States. So there are a lot of different messaging kind of issues involved, and some of them involve getting at the root causes of why people are leaving in those countries.”
Hagerty: “Well, messaging is one of these root causes, and I think it would be incredibly important to hear from our top law enforcement officer in America that these people should not come.”
Garland: “Well, I don’t want people to make that very difficult and dangerous trip with coyotes that you’re talking about. There’s no doubt about that this leads to human tragedy.”
Hagerty: “Would you be willing to say if a person comes here, goes through the asylum process, and is found that their claim is invalid and they should be removed, that they will be deported?”
Garland: “The Department of Homeland Security is responsible for that issue. Because of the large numbers that you’re talking about, they, I understand, have a series of priorities. First and most important, deportation of people who are at risk for national security to the United States and for public safety. And lastly, they’re trying to deport recent arrivals in order to send the message that you’re talking about, that people should not come.”
Hagerty: “I was with you and Secretary Mayorkas when we went through this prioritization before. I’m shocked at what he said because the number of people coming across our border illegally has massively increased. Yet, the number of deportations has gone way down. So I’m not buying that argument. What I would love to hear you say as our nation’s top law enforcement official… is that: ‘it is illegal to cross the border into this country; that if somebody is found to have failed in their claim for asylum, which 90% of the people do, that they will be deported.’ That’s the message that people in these countries need to hear—not, ‘Well, don’t come, but if you do, there’s nothing going to happen to you.’”
Garland: “It is a misdemeanor to cross the border without the appropriate documentation, that’s correct. And the question of rights to apply for asylum is also correct. That’s an element of our law. The determination of how to deport and what priorities, that’s up to the Department of Homeland Security. And I don’t think it’s useful for me to get into their business, any more than I would expect them to get into our business with respect to our law enforcement.”
Hagerty: “I would hope for a clear determination that when someone is found to be applying for asylum here in an invalid fashion, that they should leave this country and that they will be deported. The fact that you’re not able to say that clearly today and send that message to the Department of Homeland Security is shocking.”
Garland: “If they’ve been adjudicated to not be entitled to asylum, then they should be deported.”
Hagerty: “I appreciate your saying that. I applaud that, because that’s the message that needs to be conveyed right now.”