Durbin Questions Secretary Mayorkas During Senate Judiciary Committee Oversight Hearing Of The Department Of Homeland Security

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today questioned Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing entitled “Oversight of the Department of Homeland Security.”  Durbin first asked Secretary Mayorkas about the fentanyl crisis. 

“Tell me how we strike a relationship with Mexico to actively cooperate [with] the flow of individuals coming toward the United States while at the same time deal with the reality that they are failing miserably when it comes to the export of deadly narcotics to our country,” Durbin asked.

Secretary Mayorkas responded that DHS is taking the crisis very seriously and recently launched a new anti-fentanyl operation, “Blue Lotus,” that resulted in the seizure of 900 pounds of fentanyl in just one week.  Secretary Mayorkas reiterated that “we have transnational criminal investigative units that have indeed disrupted laboratories that manufacture fentanyl, that have helped interdict the flow of fentanyl within Mexico that have in fact cut off financial streams, but the battle is very difficult and we are seeking to cooperate more closely with our Mexican counterparts.”  

During his opening remarks, Durbin noted that 80 percent or more of fentanyl is coming from American citizens crossing ports of entry, as opposed to asylum seekers. 

Durbin continued, “Is it impossible for us in this day in age to stop this flow by ordinary, legal Americans through our ports of entry?”

Secretary Mayorkas responded that DHS is working to devote additional resources to the points of entry on our southern border, where 90 percent of fentanyl is transported.  Secretary Mayorkas stated that DHS is seeking additional federal funding from Congress in the next fiscal year budget to help stop the flow of fentanyl into the United States. 

Durbin then asked about Non-Intrusive Inspection systems that can quickly scan and detect fentanyl in vehicles coming through ports of entry.  DHS is investing more and seeking additional federal funding into the program and they are “exploring how we [DHS] can use artificial intelligence (AI) to really serve as a force multiplier.” 

“I was briefed two or three weeks ago on artificial intelligence, it was a frightening presentation when you consider opportunities of AI to overcome what we think are protections in cyber security.  You mentioned artificial intelligence in your opening statement, can you comment on the challenge it’s going to create for us?” Durbin asked. 

Secretary Mayorkas responded that he is tasking the Homeland Security Advisory Council to look into it.  He stated that while AI presents an opportunity for good, in the wrong hands, it can be a weapon of harm. 

Durbin concluded by commenting on the need to reform our immigration system, specifically in regards to our workforce. 

“Now we have this system of law that doesn’t allow a person to legally work in the United States until a period of time has passed—six months to a year, once they are in here, even waiting for a determination of their application for asylum.  That creates a dilemma for many of these people who have no resources to live on.  How do you answer critics who say we ought to give them an opportunity to work?”  Durbin asked.

Secretary Mayorkas stated that DHS is climbing out of a backlog of requests with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which was financially devastated under the Trump Administration.  USCIS relies on fees, and a fee rule has not been authorized in more than six years.  

The hearing continues Chair Durbin’s work to revitalize the Senate Judiciary Committee’s oversight of agencies under the Committee’s jurisdiction, including by holding regular oversight hearings.  It marks the second DHS oversight hearing under Durbin, as well as under the Biden administration.  In 2021, Durbin and the Committee held the first DHS oversight hearing since January 16, 2018 – the lone occasion that the Committee held a DHS oversight hearing during the four years of the Trump administration

Video of Durbin’s questions in Committee are available here.


Audio of Durbin’s questions in Committee are available here.


Footage of Durbin’s questions in Committee are available here for TV Stations.