Sen. James Lankford is demanding that Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas clarify previous Senate testimony claiming that illegal immigrants who fail to report to federal authorities are an “enforcement priority” — even though recently leaked documents contradict those comments.
In a letter initially obtained by Fox News, Lankford (R-Okla.) questioned Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s “Operation Horizon,” in which legal documents — including notices to appear in court — were sent to about 78,000 migrants who illegally crossed the southern border but were not processed for deportation.
The migrants were given a “notice to appear” at an ICE facility within 60 days.
Lankford wants Mayorkas to clear up an apparent contradiction between the leaked documents, first reported by CBS News, and the secretary’s testimony at a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing in September.
“We have discussed my concerns about this catch-and-release policy multiple times in HSGAC hearings, and you have previously testified that DHS considers individuals who do not report to be ’an enforcement priority of ours,’” Lankford writes in the letter sent Monday.
According to the senator, one of the leaked legal documents tells migrants: “Don’t worry if you are past the 60-day deadline to report from the time you entered the United States. Come in so you can help ensure the best outcome for your case.”
“Unless you have committed a serious crime, or the government thinks you may be a risk to the United States, YOU WILL NOT [emphasis in original] be taken into custody during the appointment,” another document allegedly says.
During the Sept. 21 Senate hearing, Lankford noted that more than 107,000 migrants were released into the US with “notices to report” and questioned Mayorkas about how the federal government was following up on enforcement of those orders.
“Are we in pursuit of any of those individuals that did get a notice to report but then have not actually reported? Are those in the priorities? And have we actually picked up any of those folks for detention?” Lankford asked Mayorkas at the time.
“Senator, my understanding is of that figure, approximately 75 percent have indeed reported within the timeframe or within their reporting timeframe,” Mayorkas replied. “And as to those who have failed to report, that would qualify as an enforcement priority of ours.”
According to CBS, migrants released after crossing the border are usually given “notices to appear,” which require them to see an immigration judge who can have them deported if they fail to show up at court dates.
But faced with a surge of migrants at the border that has overwhelmed government facilities, border officials began issuing “notices to report” requiring asylum claimants to appear at an ICE office for processing in 60 days in a bid to streamline the intake process.
Lankford seeks a response by Dec. 1.