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Defund Mayorkas

The Republican House should use the power of the purse to thwart Alejandro Mayorkas’s agenda.

Capitol Hill May 4
(Amanda Andrade-Rhoades/For The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has struck again in his guerrilla campaign to obliterate lawfully established U.S. immigration quotas. On January 5, the White House announced it would immediately begin accepting up to 30,000 new immigrants from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela, per month, from each of these four countries. 

Media focus on the future of Title 42, while important, has served to obfuscate President Joe Biden’s latest border security flimflam in which the administration claims it is protecting our frontiers by diverting illegal migrants into Mayorkas’s new “orderly and lawful pathways” to reach the United States. The reality is these pathways are neither orderly nor lawful.  

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Congress must fight back. The Biden administration must live within existing immigration law, asking Congress for new visa categories or higher refugee numbers—if needed. Many in the House’s Republican majority have advocated a move to impeach Secretary Mayorkas for failing to protect the border and other neglected constitutional duties. To that list should be added Mayorkas’s failure to enforce the Immigration and Nationality Act, specifically his skullduggery in the use of humanitarian parole authority provided in Section 212(d)(5)(A) of that law. But a more immediate priority than impeaching Mayorkas must be defunding his unconstitutional and unlawful express immigration programs.

In trying to entice illegal migrants from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela to use his new pathways, a brazen Mayorkas revealed how he could have long ago ended the abuse of asylum claims at the southern border. As the secretary explained, “DHS and the Department of Justice intend to issue a proposed rule to provide that individuals who circumvent available, established pathways to lawful migration, and also fail to seek protection in a country through which they traveled on their way to the United States, will be subject to a rebuttable presumption of asylum ineligibility in the United States[emphasis added]" unless they qualify for "exceptions that will be specified."

A secretary of Homeland Security worthy of the office would make such efforts against all illegal migrants, all the time, not just the ones who fail to sign up for Mayorkas’s invented immigration pathways. This secretary’s talk is just more smoke and mirrors, as his real goal has nothing to do with homeland security, but with opening up America’s front door to a new northbound diaspora from the Caribbean region.

Here are the Department of State totals for the annual number of U.S. immigrant visas typically issued to the nationals of these four countries: Cuba (9,752); Haiti (16,419); Nicaragua (2,075); and Venezuela (2,917). These yearly totals are from 2017, the last representative year of the normal scale of immigrant processing before the Trump administration shut down consular operations in Havana due to “sonic boom” fears and well before Covid impacted regular operations in the rest of the region. 

Mayorkas’s new quotas could yield an astonishing 360,000 annual migrants from each of those four countries, an unprecedented and destabilizing increase in immigration that would overwhelm struggling U.S. communities that already take the brunt of the arrivals of foreigners. In fact, the entire United States would be shaken in managing a new wave of 1.4 million immigrants annually just from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela, with all the predictable social and economic chaos and pressures on local government services, schools, and labor markets.  

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Before the Biden administration began opening our borders, the United States received, from all source countries around the world, a little over a million legal migrants annually, arriving through the constantly churning “family reunification” migration process, the motor that has brought the number of U.S. foreign-born residents to 48 million, some 14.6 percent of the total population, a figure that is already approaching record levels.  

Mayorkas wants even more, and to that end he is blowing up the legal immigration process through his abuse of the U.S. immigration law’s humanitarian parole exception. Congress added this exception to the Immigration and Nationality Act for the purpose of admitting a few selected foreigners, who could otherwise not qualify for a visa, but needed to travel for an emergency (such as to receive medical treatment or give court testimony). This exception is destructive dynamite in Mayorkas’s hands, allowing him to simply invent new express immigration programs by “legalizing” the entry of hundreds of thousands of foreigners, as “parolee-migrants,” without requiring that they qualify for visas or be processed as refugees. Mayorkas recognizes no restrictions on this bogus parole authority, and so far, neither Congress nor the courts have acted to stop him. 

Once these parolee-migrants reach U.S. territory, DHS immediately grants them not only legal status but also work authorization. No one expects them to ever return to their countries; although the secretary deceptively speaks about these parolee-migrants staying “two years,” only a fool would believe that. Mayorkas’s actions are an unconstitutional power grab, the equivalent of executive branch officials expending funds that Congress never appropriated.

The DHS secretary rolled out his first massive express immigration program last year under the cover of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.  Known as “Uniting for Ukraine,” the program has already brought to the U.S. more than 100,000 Ukrainian parolee-migrants. DHS has announced this program in fact has no cap on admissions and will continue for as long as the White House wants.

DHS began admitting Venezuelans in early January. Mayorkas now extends the same program to Cubans, Haitians, and Nicaraguans. He allows these parolee-migrants to fly directly to U.S. airports, but maintains they must: “(1) pass rigorous security vetting; (2) have a supporter in the United States who will provide financial and other support; and (3) complete vaccinations and other public health requirements.”

Mayorkas’s claim makes a mockery of the normal screening required by U.S. law and regulations of migrants who are processed for an immigrant visa, and therefore merits some closer examination.

Regular U.S. immigration procedures typically require visa applicants to remain in their country while they are vetted in security databases and interviewed by U.S. diplomats at embassies and consulates to verify the authenticity of their identities, family relationships, and work history. U.S. officials require immigrant visa applicants to demonstrate they can earn a living and not become public charges, document they have no criminal past, and undergo a full medical examination. While imperfect, these procedures do provide considerable checks and controls against the widespread corrupt practices in many immigrant-sending countries.

The demand to migrate to the United States is so intense that U.S. officials carrying out in-country screening routinely uncover numerous unqualified and imposter applicants. This is particularly true in high-fraud countries like Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela, where State Department investigators on the ground regularly expose criminal conspiracies and widespread corruption of local government officials. Fraudulently securing U.S. visas is a big business often linked to human smuggling rings operating in the United States. 

Under Mayorkas’s program, DHS in Washington notifies parolee-migrants by email that they have permission to travel. They are not pre-interviewed nor are their documents examined in their home countries prior to travel, but only after they reach a U.S. port of entry.  

Mayorkas’s flimsy processing procedure begins when a U.S.-based “supporter” indicates online he will support the parolee-migrant by filing a “Declaration of Financial Support” (Form I-134).  Anybody can go online and qualify as a supporter: U.S. citizens, legal permanent residents, or even NGOs. Supporters are not required to dedicate any minimum financial amount, nor have any family relationship with the parolee-migrants. Immigration lawyers point out these “supporters” are not legally bound to pay any support costs.

Perhaps most important, Mayorkas is ignoring significant security vulnerabilities. DHS is tasked with pre-screening the parolee-migrant’s identity in its databases, a process Mayorkas lauds as “rigorous security vetting.”  This pre-screening is in fact the same name-check process that DHS uses in its ESTA travel program, through which the Department vets short-term visitors from countries permitted visa-free travel to the U.S.

A security vetting program like this is built upon identity information-sharing agreements that Washington establishes with trusted partner countries, which share their own classified criminal and terrorist watchlists with DHS. The four countries in question, however, are decidedly not U.S. partners, as the Cuban, Nicaraguan and Venezuelan governments are openly hostile, Marxist regimes, while Haitian authorities have no security capacity to develop such reliable watchlists.

DHS lacks the staffing capacity on the ground in these countries either to independently vet these parolee-migrants before they travel or develop its own country-specific watchlists. Trying to sort out identities and documents as DHS officials interview parolee-migrants already at U.S. ports of entry is a security vulnerability.  

This information gap, caused by Mayorkas’s express immigration programs, leaves wide-open opportunities for these belligerent governments to dispatch into the U.S. unwanted criminals, agents provocateurs, and intelligence operatives, just as Fidel Castro did in his day to greatly harm American interests. We can expect the same trickery from Castro devotees such as Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro and Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega.

The Mayorkas plan will also allow approved parolee-migrants to bring along their spouses and minor children (under 21), creating imposter opportunities for more identity subterfuge, as family document fraud is widespread in these four countries. Again, DHS has too little staffing on the ground in each of these four countries to be able to verify the bona fides of family relationships, opening the door to more significant abuse.    

Mayorkas’s plan also eliminates the requirement that lawful immigrant applicants undergo a complete physical before traveling to the United States, a procedure that is verified in advance by American embassy staff before issuing any immigrant visas. Instead Mayorkas’s parolee-migrants must only show paper forms they have been vaccinated, again opening the door for more document fraud. 

In short, in addition to unleashing unsustainable numbers of parolee-migrants, Mayorkas’s express immigration process will become engulfed by corrupt practices, fraudulent documents, and falsified identities on a greater scale than even those that currently plague our regular visa-based immigration system. 

Congress should take steps now during the upcoming budget and debt ceiling negotiations to block the expenditure of any DHS or State Department funds that implement providing public interest parole to any migrants under INA Section 212(d)(5)(A). The defunding should cover any and all expenditures, including staff salaries, programmatic funds, or fees collected by the agencies.  

Let us use the power of the purse to stop Mayorkas. He can be impeached later.