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A pair of Democrats with national defense backgrounds says Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas needs to explain his plan for dealing with the fallout of rescinding Title 42 when he faces Congress this week.
Democratic Reps. Elissa Slotkin of Michigan and Abigail Spanberger of Virginia already wrote a letter to the Biden administration urging the White House to delay lifting the Title 42 public health order that has been used to expel a majority of migrants at the border during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now, in interviews with Fox News late Tuesday, the former CIA officers said rescinding Title 42 in the midst of an expected spring border surge of migrants will create “a significant problem” and lead to border officials being “constantly overwhelmed.”
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“We both spent time in our prior lives trying to protect the country from homeland attacks,” Slotkin told Fox News. “And as someone who now sits on the Homeland Security Committee, it just felt like we were kind of leaving ourselves open to … a significant problem this spring.”
They are concerned Mayorkas doesn’t have a strategy to deal with the surge of migrants.
“When we heard that the administration was about to reverse Title 42 without presenting a plan, it just struck … both of us that it was just set up to fail, basically,” Slotkin said.
Slotkin is a former CIA analyst and Department of Defense official. Spanberger is a former postal inspector and CIA officer. Slotkin and Spanberger both entered Congress in 2019 by flipping red seats and they have been prime targets for Republicans ever since in their bid to retake the House.
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Democrats have been split on whether to lift Title 42. Progressives and some members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus have been pressuring Biden to lift the health order that started under President Trump. They’ve argued it was cruel and discriminatory to expel more than 1.7 million migrants who were seeking refuge in the U.S. from dire situations – and vaccines are now widely available to alleviate any public health coronavirus concerns.
Spanberger said regardless of anyone’s position on Title 42, there must be preparations in place for its eventual rescission.
“The reality is that we need to have a plan in place for when we lift it, regardless of what one thinks of the policy,” Spanberger told Fox News. “It has been in place for two years and we have staffing, we have infrastructure, we have resources positioned along the border that have been in place for two years related to the number of people who have been crossing the border with Title 42 in place. When Title 42 is lifted, there will be a significant shift … and we have to be prepared for it.”
In response to bipartisan criticism, the Department of Homeland Security late Tuesday published its plan to deal with a post-Title 42 migrant surge, while conceding the surge will “substantially strain” resources at the border. The public health order will end on May 23 – unless a court orders it kept it in place.
The 20-page plan is mostly a more detailed version of a strategy the agency outlined ahead of the April 1 announcement that Title 42 would be lifted. The memo outlines what it calls “a whole-of-government plan to prepare for and manage increased encounters of noncitizens at our Southwest Border.”
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Slotkin and Spanberger were both still reviewing the latest DHS memo but said they want Mayorkas to acknowledge a “robust plan” must be in place before such a major policy shift.
“I want to hear him speak to the impact on the men and women who work at our borders and our ports of entry,” Spanberger said. “The challenges that they faced over the past two years during the pandemic, how they have adapted to work under Title 42, and … what he’s advocating for on behalf of the men and women of the Department of Homeland Security.”
Mayorkas testified before the House Appropriations Committee Wednesday morning and will speak to the House Homeland Security Committee Wednesday afternoon. On Thursday, he’ll return to Congress for testimony before the House Judiciary Committee.
Fox News’ Adam Shaw contributed to this report.