EXCLUSIVE: Republicans on three House committees on Monday requested a meeting with Vice President Kamala Harris over what they described as a “catastrophe” at the southern border — amid accusations that the Biden administration’s policies have fueled the historic surge in migrants.
In a letter to Harris, Reps. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, John Katko, R-NY, and James Comer, R-Ky — the ranking members on the House Judiciary, Homeland Security and Oversight Committees respectively — request a meeting “to discuss the Biden-Harris administration’s response to the catastrophe on the southern border.”
“Over two weeks ago, President Joe Biden delegated the administration’s response to the humanitarian and security crisis at the southern border to you. However, it is unclear what, if any actions you have directed or plan to initiate to respond to the crisis that continues to worsen each day,” reads the letter, obtained by Fox News.
Border officials encountered more than 172,000 migrants in March alone, and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has said that the U.S. is on track to encounter more migrants than it has in 20 years.
The administration has downplayed the crisis, with Biden arguing that there are seasonal surges every year while blaming the Trump administration for dismantling the legal pathways to asylum the administration now says it has to restore.
But critics have pointed to the rollback of key Trump-era policies like the Migrant Protection Protocols — which kept migrants in Mexico during their hearings — as well as stopping construction of the border wall, releasing families into the U.S. and narrowing interior enforcement priorities.
That pressure has continued as images of packed migrants in crowded facilities and children being dumped at the border have emerged and led to criticism from both Republicans and some Democrats.
The lawmakers on Monday say that, despite Mayorkas’ acknowledgment of almost unprecedented numbers, “it appears that the Biden-Harris administration refuses to take meaningful action to stop the influx of illegal aliens to the border, and is instead releasing thousands into the interior.”
Harris was tapped as Biden’s pick to deal with what the White House describes as “root causes” of the crisis but has faced criticism for not visiting the border. At a House GOP press conference on Wednesday, Republicans displayed a milk carton with Harris’ picture on it with the slogan “Missing at the Border.”
The White House has countered that criticism by saying she will be involved in “high-level diplomatic” work and not the border itself. Harris herself made that point last week when she announced she would be visiting Guatemala and Mexico in the coming weeks.
“The president has asked Secretary [Alejandro] Mayorkas to address what is going on the border and he has been working very hard on that and is showing some progress because of his hard work,” she said at a Northern Triangle security roundtable.
“I have been asked to lead the issue of dealing with root causes in the Northern Triangle, similar to what the then-Vice President did many years ago,” she said. “But I will tell you these are issues that aren’t going to be addressed overnight.”
Trump-era DHS officials have pushed back, saying the border crisis and diplomatic discussions are linked.
“You can’t talk to Northern Triangle countries, or to Mexican officials, without understanding the pressures and the situation and atmosphere on the border,” former acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf said at a Heritage Foundation press conference last week. “The two are so linked, you can’t do one without the other.”
Reps. Jordan, Katko and Comer tell Harris in the letter that on a recent visit to the border officials and others that committee members spoke to “said they had not heard from you or received any direction or plan from you to help their situation.”
The lawmakers request a meeting by the end of the month.
Meanwhile, Fox News confirmed on Monday that the administration has ordered Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to avoid using the terms “illegal alien,” “alien” and “assimilation.” Instead, they are being asked to use the terms “noncitizen or migrant,” “undocumented” and “integration.”