Watch live: Mayorkas to testify on border security


(NewsNation) — Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas testified before the Senate as Republicans continue a push to hold the Biden administration accountable for what they call a border crisis.

In his opening statement Mayorkas first expressed support for those affected by recent tornadoes and for the family and friends of those killed in a school shooting in Nashville, Tennessee. He painted a picture of a “heightened security environment,” citing global conflicts and tension as well as concerns of violence and domestic terrorism.

The Senate Judiciary Committee hearings come after earlier testimony from Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz, who said he believed the U.S. does not have control of the border. Border security has been a top GOP issue, as they criticize the Biden administration for handling migrants who attempt to cross illegally.

But numbers of migrant encounters have actually begun trending down. Data released by U.S. Customs and Border Protection paints a picture of who is attempting to enter the country at a time of intense political controversy, with Republicans seeing immigration as a potent issue with voters and accusing President Joe Biden and Mayorkas of not doing enough to secure the southern border.

U.S. Border Patrol officials encountered migrants trying to cross the border 128,877 times in February between the legal border crossings. That’s about the same as January’s number — 128,913 — and is the lowest number of encounters per month since February 2021, the agency said.

The numbers of encounters doesn’t necessarily equate to individual people since some migrants try repeatedly to cross the border. The agency said about 25% of those encountered in February were repeat encounters, meaning that at some time during the last 12 months they’d been detained by U.S. officials as they tried to enter the country.

In comparison, U.S. officials stopped migrants 221,693 times between the ports of entry along the Mexican border in December.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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