Durbin Questions Secretary Mayorkas In Senate Judiciary Committee DHS Oversight Hearing

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today questioned U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas at the Senate Judiciary Committee DHS oversight hearing.  Durbin asked Secretary Mayorkas what the status is of the children who are still separated from their parents due to former President Trump’s immoral and inhumane zero-tolerance policy. 


“President Biden’s Interagency Task Force on the Reunification of Families identified 3,914 children separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border between July 2017 and January 2021 when President Trump left office.  Of these, 2,073 have been reunified with their parents, through previous court orders and via the efforts of the Task Force this year.  That leaves approximately 1,800 children who were separated during the Trump years who, according to this Task Force report, have not been reunited with their parents.  What is the current status of these children?” Durbin asked.


Secretary Mayorkas stated that the Task Force is working diligently to reunite the families who were separated under the previous Administration, and made clear that the Biden Administration is not forcibly separating children from their families at the border.  Secretary Mayorkas also stated that the Administration is working with organizations to rebuild the trust of the parents that the prior Administration destroyed so that they come forward in order to be reunited with their children.


Durbin went on to ask Secretary Mayorkas about the backlog of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) renewal applications.  Durbin is the lead author of the Dream Act and pushed President Obama to create DACA in 2012.  Durbin has been pressing the Biden Administration to improve the rate of processing DACA renewals since this summer.


“What efforts is DHS making to reduce the backlog of DACA renewal applications?  At the end of June, I understand 84,000 [DACA renewal] requests were pending, including 13,000 [DACA] renewal [requests pending] for more than 120 days.  What are you doing about it?” Durbin asked.


Secretary Mayorkas stated that DHS is prioritizing DACA renewal requests based on their expiration date to ensure no lapses in DACA eligibility occur.  However, he could not say what the backlog of DACA renewal requests is at this time.


Durbin also pushed back on Republicans’ use of the phrase “catch and release” to inaccurately describe immigration proceedings and Republican claims that migrants who cross the border are not tested for COVID-19.  Secretary Mayorkas also discussed the role of Alternatives to Detention as a means of ensuring that migrants appear at their hearings.  Secretary Mayorkas also noted that the backlog of cases in our immigration courts is an example of how badly broken our immigration system is and in dire need of a legislative fix.


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


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


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


This is the first Senate Judiciary Committee DHS oversight hearing since January 16, 2018 – the lone occasion during the four years of the Trump Administration that the Committee held an agency-wide DHS oversight hearing.  Annual DHS oversight hearings were routine occurrences under the Obama Administration, and Durbin is committed to restoring this tradition as Chair.