At A Senate Appropriations Hearing, Durbin Questions Secretary Mayorkas About Meaningful Immigration Reform

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, at a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing about the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) and Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Fiscal Year 2024 (FY24) supplemental budget request, questioned DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas about the need to address the flow of fentanyl, which is mostly coming through ports of entry into the United States.

Durbin asked, “Secretary Mayorkas, you said something in your opening statement that the majority of narcotics and fentanyl coming into the United States comes through ports of entry transported by U.S. citizens.  Is that correct?”

Secretary Mayorkas replied, “That is correct.  I believe it is more than 90 percent.”

Durbin responded, “Isn’t it pretty clear that’s where we should focus our efforts, at least our startup efforts to deal with this fentanyl crisis?”

Secretary Mayorkas replied that is where DHS is focusing their energy—“both with respect to the deployment of technology, and the law enforcement operations that we undertake.”   Secretary Mayorkas expanded to say that the Administration is also looking into new technology like nonintrusive technology that scans vehicles when coming through our border.

Durbin continued, “We should be concerned about the other 10 percent [of fentanyl] that is coming across the border.  What are we doing about that?”

Secretary Mayorkas responded that they are, “deploying our personnel to the fullest extent possible.” 

Durbin then asked about unprecedented numbers of people coming into the United States and the need formeaningful immigration reform.

Durbin said, “The first item suggested by the Republicans if we are going to address immigration is a 900 mile wall between the United States and Mexico.  Can you comment on the impact of such a wall?  What it might cost and how long it takes to build?”

Secretary Mayorkas responded, “It costs billions and billions of dollars.  It takes years and years to build.  It is not as effective as a multipronged strategy that includes [the] latest technological advancements.  We need a 21stcentury solution to what we are experiencing as a 21stcentury problem.”

Durbin concluded, “Let me close by saying I spent a large part of my Senate career on the issue of immigration.  As Chair of the Judiciary Committee, it is in my jurisdiction and I am frustrated that we have been unable to initiate a true bipartisan effort to solve our immigration challenges and the crisis we face today.  I was with a Gang of Eight, several members of this Committee as well, that produced a comprehensive immigration reform [bill], which passed the Senate and [was] never taken up by the Republican House.  I am ready to sit down again and make that work.  This notion [that] we have to do significant immigration reform in the next few weeks or we won’t send money to assist the people in Ukraine, or causes that are important to our national security—I think it is mistaken… I do want to undertake [immigration reform] in a serious way.  I'm sure you will join me in that effort if we do.”

Secretary Mayorkas responded to Durbin, “I most certainly will.”

Video of Durbin’s remarks from the hearing is available here.

Audio of Durbin’s remarks from the hearing is available here.

Footage of Durbin’s remarks from the hearing is available here for TV Stations. 

Durbin has been a lead champion of immigration reform.  Earlier this year, Durbin and Senator Gary Peters (D-MI) introduced a legislative proposal to respond to the immediate needs on our southern border.  While not a substitute for comprehensive immigration reform or legislation to address the root causes of migration, the Border Management, Security, and Assistance Act of 2023 provides immediate assistance to border officials and authorities to help secure the border and efficiently process asylum seekers.  The bill also provides critical support to the communities across America that receive asylum seekers.