Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas insisted that data indicating a record surge in migrants coming to the southern border since Joe Biden took office is 'misleading' during a Tuesday Senate hearing.
He said the numbers weren't accurate because many of the migrants are repeat offenders making more than one attempt to cross the border each month, including those who are expelled under the Centers for Disease Control and Protection's Title 42.
'The number of apprehensions, the number of encounters does not equal the number of individuals encountered,' he said, adding that those expelled under Title 42 'often return and are expelled again.'
'Individuals are being expelled more than once.'
At one point Mayorkas defended the Biden administration by saying the surge of migrants at the border 'began in April of last year,' under the Trump administration, and called it a 'periodic surge' that reflected a broken immigration system rather than the actions of one White House.
Data released by Customs and Border Protection revealed 188,829 migrants were stopped at the southwest border in June, the sixth monthly increase since the start of 2021 and roughly 8,000 more since May.
These statistics just account for the apprehensions, and doesn't include the migrants who cross undetected - according to reports that is up to 1,500 people every day
Missouri Republican Senator Josh Hawley was quick to blame the unprecedented numbers on the Biden administration.
'Mr. Secretary, with all due respect, this record is an unmitigated disaster,' Hawley said, claiming states like his were 'awash in drugs' from increased illicit activity at the border.
When grilled about whether the administration's border policies are working, Mayorkas told the Missouri lawmaker that 'we have a plan, we are executing the plan, the plan takes time to execute - and we are doing so.'
Mayorkas said that many people accounted for in Border Patrol's unprecedented numbers have tried to cross the border more than once
He added that the coronavirus pandemic further complicated efforts.
'COVID was at its height a year ago, Mr. Secretary, and with all due respect we saw none of these numbers a year ago,' Hawley snapped. 'This crisis has occurred under your tenure.'
Another point in the contentious hearing saw Utah Senator Mitt Romney attempt to pressure Mayorkas into revealing whether or not he agreed with the House's measure halting construction on the border wall.
'The decision with regard to the border wall was not a political decision but a substantive one - that the $15 billion that was dedicated to construction of the border wall was ill-advised,' Mayorkas defended.
The Homeland Security chief declined to tell senators if he supported budget cuts to border enforcement proposed by House Democrats.
'In certain respects, I think we should increase it, and in other respects, I think we should reduce it,' he said. 'Some of it is not spent wisely to achieve the most important outcomes...I know that by being in the trenches.'
Romney laughed, 'I asked a simple question, do you think the budget should be reduced or not, and you responded like a politician.'
Customs and Border Protection revealed that 188,829 migrants were stopped at the southwest border in June
Immigration officers now have the power to turn migrant families away after just a quick initial screening if they don't meet qualifications for asylum at the southwest border, the Biden administration quietly announced Monday evening.
The policy, expedited removal, is the 'legal authority given to even low-level immigration officers' to deport non-US citizens 'without any of the due-process protections granted to most other people,' according to the American Immigration Council.
Under the newly-reinstated policy, border officials will be able to swiftly deport migrant families who do not meet requirements for asylum (pictured: Over 100 migrants surrendered to Border