The director of the FBI on Thursday told lawmakers that the crisis at the southern border presents “significant security issues” — while avoiding directly addressing claims by the Biden administration that the border is “secure.”
FBI Director Christopher Wray was asked at a Senate hearing by Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, if he agreed with Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas — who said recently that the border is “secure.”
“When Director Mayorkas was asked about the border, he made the, frankly, from my standpoint, implausible statement that the border was secure. From your vantage point, in your opinion, is the border secure?” Cornyn asked.
Wray told Cornyn that “I’m hesitant to substitute my judgment for the Secretary of Homeland Security, but I will tell you that I have spent a lot of time with our field offices down that have border responsibility.”
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“I have been to ports of entry, including not that long ago, with [Customs and Border Protection] officers walking me through it, so I could really see firsthand what they’re up against, and all I can say is, boy, they’ve got a heck of a challenge and I admire their grit and determination to get the job done, but it’s a daunting one.”
Cornyn pressed Wray, telling him that he hadn’t answered the question.
“Well, look, I think the border presents significant security issues,” Wray responded. “There’s a wide array of criminal threats that we encounter down at the border.”
Wray highlighted transnational criminal organizations who transport drugs into the U.S., and he said that “cascades” into prison and street gangs who distribute them. He went through FBI efforts to tackle those organizations, including task forces in the Northern Triangle — calling it a “major, major challenge.
Cornyn said he had been told by Border Patrol agents that there was a public safety threat at that border, including with migrants coming from more than 150 countries, and asked Wray if he would agree with that assessment.
Wray said there was an “eclectic mix of nationalities and the volume is just staggering.”
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“To me, it represents a significant security issue and represents a wide array of criminal threats that flow out of it,” he said.
The U.S. has been rocked by a massive migrant crisis since shortly after the Biden administration took office last year. There have been more than 1.7 million migrant encounters in both FY 2021 and FY 22 to date, and more than 200,000 encounters each month since March.
Meanwhile, there have been more than 500,000 gotaways since the beginning of the fiscal year, which began in October.
Mayorkas, however, said last month that the border is “secure” and “we are working to make the border more secure…that has been a historic challenge.”
“There is work to be done,” he said before clarifying that “safe and secure are two different words.”
“There are smugglers that operate on the Mexican side of the border and placing one’s life in their hands is not safe,” he said.