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The FBI director told lawmakers on Thursday that the crisis on the southern border presented “significant security concerns” — while avoiding directly responding to claims by the Biden administration that the border was “safe.”
During a Senate hearing, FBI Director Christopher Wray was asked by Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, if he agreed with Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, who recently declared that the border was “secure”.
“When Director Mayorkas was questioned about the border, he made the statement, frankly, from my point of view, implausible, that the border was secure. From your point of view, in your opinion, is the border secure?” Cornyn asked.
Wray told Cornyn that “I hesitate 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 who have responsibility for borders.”
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“I have visited entry points, including not so long ago, with [Customs and Border Protection] officers walked me through this, so I could really see firsthand what they’re up against, and all I can say is they’re having a hell of a challenge and I admire their courage and their determination to get the job done, but it’s daunting.”
Cornyn pressed Wray, telling him he didn’t answer the question.
“Well, listen, I think the border has significant security issues,” Wray replied. “There is a wide range of criminal threats that we encounter at the border.”
Wray highlighted the transnational criminal organizations that transport drugs into the United States, and he said it “cascades” to prisons and the street gangs that distribute them. He went through the FBI’s efforts to tackle these organizations, including the task forces in the Northern Triangle – calling it a “major, major challenge”.
Cornyn said Border Patrol agents told him there was a threat to public safety at that border, including with migrants from more than 150 countries, and asked Wray if he would d agree with this assessment.
Wray said there was an “eclectic mix of nationalities and the volume is just staggering”.
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“To me, this represents a significant security concern and represents a wide range of criminal threats that flow from it,” he said.
The United States was rocked by a massive migration crisis shortly after the Biden administration took office last year. There have been more than 1.7 million migrant encounters in fiscal year 2021 and fiscal year 22 to date, and more than 200,000 encounters every month since March.
Meanwhile, there have been more than 500,000 getaways since the start of the fiscal year, which began in October.
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Mayorkas, however, said last month that the border was “secure” and “we are working to make the border more secure…it 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 operating on the Mexican side of the border and putting your life in their hands is not safe,” he said.