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Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Sen. Lindsay Graham grills Mayorkas about border, Afghanistan

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Sen. Lindsey Graham interrogated Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas during a Senate hearing Tuesday about the number of Afghans who were vetted before being flown to the US, as well as the number of illegal immigrants who have been released into the country.

Graham (R-SC) began his questioning by asking Mayorkas if he considered the US military’s August withdrawal from Afghanistan a success. 

Mayorkas responded by calling the botched pullout “historic” in terms of the number of US citizens and Afghan allies removed from the war-torn country. 

“How many of them were vetted before they got on the plane?” asked Graham, referring to evacuated Afghans.

“I cannot speak to that,” answered Mayorkas, later clarifying that 100 percent of Afghans were screened and vetted.

Graham reminded Mayorkas that he was testifying under oath and asked how many people were vetted before they boarded planes bound for the US.

US Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas is sworn-in to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.
US Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas is sworn in to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
MICHAEL REYNOLDS/EPA-EFE/Shutter
Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas testifies during a Senate Judiciary Committee.
Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas testifies during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

“We’ve had thousands of people who got on C-17s and flew out of the most chaotic situation I’ve seen since the fall of Saigon,” Graham pressed. “And I’m asking you before they got on the plane, how many were vetted by the United States? Can you tell me what percentage?”

“Senator, I would posit and I will confirm this, that well over 99 percent of them were fully screened and vetted before they boarded a flight,” Mayorkas replied. 

“You do know you’re under oath?” Graham asked. “You’re telling this committee under oath that 99 percent of the people who got on these planes in Afghanistan were vetted by our government before they got on that plane?” 

Sen. Lindsay Graham began grilling US Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on November 16, 2021 by asking him if he thought the US military pull out from Afghanistan had been a success.
Sen. Lindsay Graham began grilling US Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on November 16, 2021, by asking him if he thought the US military pullout from Afghanistan had been a success.
REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz

“You’re asking me about planes from transit countries to a third country,” said Mayorkas, to which Graham answered that he was asking about Afghans who got on planes in Kabul airport. 

“No. No, I can’t speak to that,” Mayorkas said. 

Graham then turned to the surge of illegal immigration at the US-Mexico border, asking: “Of the 1.7 million people who come here illegally, how many of them have been released into the country?”

Alejandro Mayorkas responded that the pull out from Afghanistan was historic and that 99% of the people who got on a US-bound plane had been vetted before hand.
Mayorkas responded that the pullout from Afghanistan was historic and that 99% of the people who got on a US-bound plane had been vetted beforehand.
REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz

Mayorkas replied that about 965,000 of that number have been “subjected to expulsion” under Title 42 regulations governing the coronavirus pandemic, while another 40,000 have been “removed.” The secretary estimated that about 375,000 of those who crossed the border illegally remain in the country.

“Do you believe that if you have an immigration hearing and there’s a final order of deportation, that person should be removed?” Graham asked. 

“I do,” Mayorkas said.  

Sen. Lindsey Graham reminded Alejandro Mayorkas that he was under oath and asked if he truly believed that 99% of passengers were vetted.
Graham reminded Mayorkas that he was under oath and asked if he truly believed that 99% of passengers were vetted.
Ellen Schmidt/Las Vegas Review-Journal via AP

“OK, why [are] 1 million people still here after they get a final order of deportation?,” the senator followed up. “Is the system working?”

“The immigration system is broken,” Mayorkas responded, “has been broken for decades.”

“Well, let me just say this,” Graham closed the exchange. “It’s really broken if a million people have been ordered to leave and they haven’t left.”

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