Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas shut down a question from a Republican congressman on Thursday over whether Vice President Kamala Harris will visit the US-Mexico border amid a rise in arrivals of migrants and asylum seekers as “unfair” and “disrespectful”.
Speaking at a Homeland Security Committee hearing on the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) budget request for fiscal year 2022, GOP Rep Ralph Norman questioned why neither President Joe Biden nor Ms Harris had visited the southern border amid the influx in arrivals.
Mr Norman introduced the question by asking Mr Mayorkas whether he had “ever had a medical physical”.
After the DHS head confirmed that he had, the South Carolina representative segued into his next question: “Why then” had Mr Biden and Ms Harris not thought it would be important to also go “physically look” at the situation at the southern border.
Before Mr Mayorkas could answer the question, Mr Norman then appeared to point to an incident back in March in which Ms Harris had laughed after being asked whether she had plans to visit the border, asking whether that was a “fair” response.
In that exchange, Ms Harris had been asked whether she would be visiting the border and replied, “not today”, before laughing, “But I have before and I’m sure I will again,” at the time.
Mr Mayorkas said he could “most certainly” respond to Mr Norman’s question, but he said: “I consider that question to be quite unfair and disrespectful.”
“Let me be very clear,” he continued. “The president and the vice president have requested and directed me to visit the border, which I have done on multiple occasions.”
Pressed further on the matter by Mr Norman, Mr Mayorkas said: “I am the secretary of Homeland Security and it is my responsibility to manage the border at the direction of the president and the vice president and I have visited the border on multiple occasions.”
Asked whether he has also spoken with Border Patrol agents, the DHS leader responded: “I most certainly have”.
He also noted that Ms Harris has previously served as attorney general of the state of California, which borders Mexico, before asserting that the vice president is “quite familiar with the situation at the border”.
The exchange comes as Ms Harris has faced growing calls to visit the US-Mexico border as part of her mandate to lead the response to the recent rise in arrivals of migrants and asylum seekers.
Ms Harris recently traveled to Mexico and Guatemala for talks on how to address the rise of irregular migration, including by addressing the “root causes” of migration.
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