WASHINGTON – At a Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing today, U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan questioned Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on the agency’s vetting and visa security programs, its counternarcotics efforts, and its decision to keep the U.S.-Canadian border closed to vaccinated Canadian travelers.
To watch Senator Hassan’s questioning, click here.
Senator Hassan expressed her support for expanding vetting capabilities in order to help prevent terrorism or other threats. The Senator noted that while DHS’s proposed budget currently has a $14 million increase for the National Vetting Center’s budget, there is not any additional funding to expand the Visa Security Program.
“I strongly support the Visa Security Program because it allows DHS to interview and vet individuals long before they arrive in the United States,” said Senator Hassan.
Secretary Mayorkas said that the agency is looking carefully at the vetting process and that he looks forward to speaking further with Senator Hassan about this.
Re-opening the Canadian Border
Senator Hassan also pushed Secretary Mayorkas on re-opening the U.S.-Canadian border to vaccinated Canadian travelers.
“I am disappointed… that the Department of Homeland Security announced that U.S. borders would remain closed, even to vaccinated Canadians, for another month,” said Senator Hassan. “This border closure continues to impact families and local economies in New Hampshire and all around the country.”
Secretary Mayorkas responded that they do have the authority to lift the restriction before the 30 days end, and that they are looking at the situation on a day to day basis.
Senator Hassan pressed Secretary Mayorkas on what the Department is doing to address evolving smuggling techniques.
“The opioid epidemic continues to ravage communities in New Hampshire and all across the United States,” said Senator Hassan. “DHS is focused on disrupting and dismantling international drug trafficking organizations. Unfortunately, those organizations have also shown themselves able to adapt and exploit the predictable procedures at U.S borders. For example, drug trafficking organizations use pedestrian border crossings – concealing drugs on many people, knowing that CBP doesn’t have the ability to intercept more than a fraction of those drugs.”
Secretary Mayorkas said that DHS is investing in new technologies and investigative strategies in order to disrupt these operations.