Secretary Mayorkas delivered the following opening statement at a House Judiciary Committee hearing on July 26, 2023.
Thank you very much Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member Nadler, distinguished Members of this Committee:
I am immensely proud to be here to discuss the work of the United States Department of Homeland Security. Every day, members of our extraordinary workforce – 260,000 selfless, dedicated, and talented public servants across the country and around the world – make sure that travelers reach their destinations safely; protect our shores and harbors; keep fentanyl and other deadly drugs from entering our country; help families rebuild after the devastation of a natural disaster; protect our ability to safely and securely turn on our computers, faucets, and lights; and secure our border, despite the broken and outdated immigration system in which we operate.
These heroic men and women are meeting challenges that have grown more complex and dynamic throughout the 20 years since our Department was established. As the threats have evolved, so too has our Department, innovating and advancing as we secure our homeland and keep the American public safe.
We are leading an unprecedented effort to interdict the flow of fentanyl into our communities, which has escalated for more than five years. We seized nearly two million pounds of narcotics last fiscal year – Operations Blue Lotus and Four Horsemen alone stopped nearly 10,000 pounds of fentanyl from the U.S., led to 284 arrests, and yielded invaluable insights into the transnational criminal organizations wreaking this death and destruction on our communities.
When our Department was created after the tragedy of 9/11, foreign terrorists were our primary terrorism-related focus. While that concern certainly persists, the most prominent terrorism-related threat we now confront is from lone offenders and small groups already present here and radicalized to violence based on ideologies of hate, anti-government sentiments, false narratives, and personal grievances. Thanks to support from Congress, we have developed grant programs and distributed more than $50 million in funds to help communities prevent acts of targeted violence and terrorism.
Our approach to managing the border securely and humanely, even within our fundamentally broken immigration system, is working. Unlawful entries between ports of entry along the southwest border have consistently decreased by more than half compared to the peak before the end of Title 42. Under President Biden’s leadership, we have led the largest expansion of lawful, safe, and orderly pathways for people to seek humanitarian relief under our laws, at the same time imposing tougher consequences on those who instead resort to the ruthless smuggling organizations that prey on the most vulnerable. We secured the first increase in Border Patrol Agent hiring in more than a decade and our campaign to disrupt and dismantle human smuggling networks has resulted in the arrest of nearly 14,000 smugglers.
We have taken bold and decisive action to counter the cybersecurity threat from nation states like the People’s Republic of China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea, and from cyber criminals around the world who target our critical infrastructure and seek to hold schools, hospitals, police departments, and other institutions vital to our daily lives, hostage for ransom.
We have seen the recent devastation that increasingly severe and frequent extreme weather events have brought to Kentucky, Florida, Vermont, Oklahoma, New York, and many other states. Our Department, through FEMA, is working with partners across the federal government to support communities impacted by unprecedented natural disasters and help them strengthen their long-term recovery and resilience through grant funds, technical assistance, and on-the-ground support.
This and so much more.
The DHS workforce does all of this with honor, integrity, and the resolve to safeguard our people, our homeland, and our values. They perform bravely despite public attacks on their character and service; despite unfair and inadequate pay; and despite, as frontline agents repeatedly tell me, threats made against them and their families.
These public servants deserve better. Supporting the men and women of DHS has been my top priority since taking office. We have expanded Departmental efforts to solicit and incorporate feedback from personnel across all components and all levels, worked to ensure that every employee works in a high-quality facility, made new resources available across the Department for employee mental health and well-being, and, earlier this week, facilitated long-overdue pay fairness for TSA personnel.
Our Department and this Congress need to work together as partners to address the threats and challenges America faces. We must fix our broken immigration system; fund the continuing protection of local communities; disrupt and dismantle transnational criminal organizations; and implement the latest technologies to advance our mission.
Americans are safer today – on the border, in the air, at sea, across the country and around the world – because of the Department of Homeland Security. Serving with the personnel of DHS is the greatest honor of my life.
I look forward to continuing to work together on their behalf, and I look forward to your questions.