Department of Homeland Security (DHS) chief Alejandro Mayorkas has been slammed for firing 32 members of the agency’s advisory council, including several Donald Trump allies, in the middle of the border crisis.
Mayorkas announced the shock move to ‘reconstitute’ the Homeland Security Advisory Council (HSAC) in a letter to the ousted members Friday telling them that their place on the council had ended effective immediately, with only three members kept on in their roles.
‘I am considering how the HSAC can bring the greatest value to the Department and how the expertise, judgment, and counsel of its members can be harnessed most effectively to advance the Department’s mission,’ he wrote.
‘I expect to work closely with the HSAC and to rely on its members to help guide the Department through a period of change.’
The purge includes all Trump-era appointees including Ken Cuccinelli, the former Virginia attorney general who is a staunch supporter of the ex-president’s hardline immigration policies.
It marks an unprecedented move with former DHS officials saying never before have they known such a blanket overhaul to the council and former acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf blasting it as ‘not the right approach.’
It comes as the Biden administration – and the DHS – continue to come under scrutiny over their handling of the migrant crisis while thousands continue to make the journey from Guatemala into Mexico and up north to the US each day.
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) chief Alejandro Mayorkas (pictured) has been slammed for firing 32 members of the agency’s advisory council, including several Donald Trump allies, in the middle of the border crisis
The only three members remaining following the drastic purge: Chairman William Bratton, Vice Chair Karen Tandy and Chair Emeritus William Webster.
Former administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration Tandy was initially appointed by Secretary Jeh Johnson in May 2016.
Former NYPD commissioner Bratton was appointed by the Obama administration while ex-FBI and CIA director Webster is a George W. Bush-era member appointed in 2003.
Mayorkas said in the letter, first reported by Politico, he will create a new advisory council in the next few weeks.
‘In the service of an orderly transition to a new model for the HSAC, I have ended the term of current HSAC members effective March 26, 2021,’ he wrote.
‘I will reconstitute the HSAC in the next few weeks, once the new model has been developed.’
Mayorkas did not rule out the possibility that some of the fired members could be reappointed to the newly-formed council.
‘I look forward to working with you in the future, whether as a member of a redesigned and reconstituted HSAC or in a different capacity, as we together seek to advance the Department’s noble mission,’ he wrote.
A spokesperson for the DHS told Politico the agency is aiming to create a council, which was largely made up of white men, that better reflects the diversity of American citizens including more women, people of color and other underrepresented groups.
The new HSAC will be launched with a ‘diverse membership representative of America and the communities DHS serves’ and will continue to be bipartisan, they said.
The HSAC website was already updated Friday to display just the three remaining council members and their bios.
Mayorkas announced the shock move to ‘reconstitute’ the Homeland Security Advisory Council (HSAC) in a letter to the ousted members Friday telling them that their place on the council had ended effective immediately, with only three members kept on in their roles
According to the latest council meeting notes from November, the council had included: Art Acevedo, Steve Adegbite, Jayson Ahern, Stewart Baker, Robert Bonner, James Carafano, Frank Cilluffo, John F. Clark, Sharon Cooper, Mark Dannels, Leon Fresco, James Fuller, Paul Goldenberg, Michael P. Jackson, Tom Jenkins, Jim Jones, Daniel Kaniewski, Cathy Lanier, Carie A. Lemack, John Magaw, Hans C. Miller, Jeffery Miller, Jeff Moss, Chris Nocco, Cynthia Renaud, Robert Rose, Ali H. Soufan, Paul Stockton, Chad Sweet, Mark Weatherford and Brian White.
A total of 32 members have lost their positions including all Trump-era appointees – as well as more longstanding members from earlier administrations.
Among those now gone are Cuccinelli and fellow Trump ally Thomas Homan – the ex-president’s hardline Immigration and Customs Enforcement director from 2017 to 2018 – in a clear sign the Biden administration is plowing on with its overhaul of the last office’s anti-immigration stance.
Also gone are at least seven new members appointed in Trump’s final months in office.
Trump’s Acting DHS Secretary Wolf added Carafano, Fuller, Miller, Nocco, Renaud, Weatherford, and White to the council last May.
Carafano, a foreign policy expert for the Heritage Foundation and Trump-era appointee, told CBS News the purge came as a shock to many members.
‘I thought it was the best board we’d ever had,’ he said.
‘It had a lot of strong expertise across the department’s portfolios and competencies. So I’m disappointed.’
The purge includes a number of members appointed under Trump including Ken Cuccinelli (pictured), the former Virginia attorney general who is a staunch supporter of the ex-president’s hardline immigration policies
Also gone is Trump ally Thomas Homan (right) – the ex-president’s hardline Immigration and Customs Enforcement director from 2017 to 2018 – in a clear sign the Biden administration is plowing on with its overhaul of the last office’s anti-immigration stance
He warned that ‘politicization’ of the council is ‘the biggest threat to Homeland Security’ as it has typically been made up of both Republican and Democrat appointees.
‘It has always been a non-partisan board. All of the boards deliberations — everybody left their politics at the door,’ he said.
‘Every day, they just came in and worked on behalf of the department. That’s what I loved so much about it. It was this safe little garden where experts could just focus on the mission.’
Former DHS officials and advisory board members told the Washington Post they did not know of any other time where so many members have been dismissed all at once.
Typically, appointees are allowed to serve out their one- to three-year terms when a new administration or DHS chief comes in, and will then be considered for reappointment when the term ends.
The shock move was slammed by New York Republican Rep. John Katko who said it shows the Biden administration has ‘no intention of upholding a bipartisan, unifying approach to securing our homeland.’
‘While these members serve at the pleasure of the Secretary, today’s action sends the message that this Administration has no intention of upholding a bipartisan, unifying approach to securing our homeland,’ Katko, ranking Republican of the House Homeland Security Committee, said in a statement.
‘The HSAC is not intended to be an echo chamber for what the current DHS Secretary wants to hear. Its mission is to provide a knowledgeable, diverse set of perspectives to combat the evolving threats of today and tomorrow.’
The only three members remaining following the drastic purge: Chairman William Bratton (left), Vice Chair Karen Tandy and Chair Emeritus William Webster (right)
Former administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration Tandy (left) is one of the three remaining after she was initially appointed by Secretary Jeh Johnson in May 2016
Wolf, who was Trump’s DHS secretary and appointed some of the ousted members during his tenure, also hit out at the move saying it would halt ‘important work’ already underway by the council.
‘While I respect the right for a DHS Secretary to alter the HSAC to address their needs, dismissing the entire council outright and stopping a lot of important work (that was underway) is not the right approach,’ Wolf tweeted.
The panel of unpaid members typically works on several projects and offers independent advice to the DHS secretary relating to various issues including domestic violent extremism.
In 2019, the HSAC released an emergency report on families and children being held in Customs and Border Protection facilities and recommended how to tackle the crisis at the time.
Most recently, the council worked on research into Chinese influence on American universities.
The overhaul marks the latest sign the Biden administration will continue to reverse Trump-era hardline tactics in the DHS’s ICE department after the new president signed a sweep of immigration-related executive orders within hours of taking office.
However the administration – and specifically the DHS – is increasingly coming under fire over the escalating migrant crisis at the US-Mexico border.
Since Joe Biden’s inauguration on January 20, the US has seen a dramatic spike in the number of people crossing the border.
There were around 18,000 unaccompanied migrant children held in US federal custody Friday morning, with almost 5,500 in CBP facilities designed for adults.
New York Republican Rep. John Katko who said it shows the Biden administration has ‘no intention of upholding a bipartisan, unifying approach to securing our homeland’
Former acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf (pictured with Trump) blasting it as ‘not the right approach’
On average, around 523 unaccompanied minors have been apprehended along the border each day over the last three weeks.
After taking office, Biden lifted the Remain in Mexico policy, which kept migrants south of the border while waiting for their hearings, effectively allowing migrants who have applied for asylum to cross into the UD and begin their legal proceedings.
He also narrowed the ICE’s criteria for arrests and deportations and stopped the building of Trump’s border wall.
These moves have led thousands upon thousands of migrants pouring into America leaving the border’s children’s centers so full that kids are being forced to spend up to 10 days in cramped detention centers meant for adults and sparking a backlog and logistical nightmare in processing the new entrants.
On Thursday alone, approximately 6,000 adults and children were apprehended along the southern border, according to a senior official.
The Biden administration has been slammed for its handling of the issue as officials refuse to call it a ‘crisis’ and have repeatedly denied the media all access to CBP detention centers.
Republican Senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn and Democratic Congressman Joaquin Castro held dueling tours of lawmakers at the border Friday.
Senator Ted Cruz and 18 of his Republican colleagues visited the border Friday and released photos and video showing children packed in the cramped conditions.
The Biden administration has been slammed for its handling of the issue as officials refuse to call it a ‘crisis’ and have repeatedly denied the media all access to CBP detention centers. Migrants line up to be transported by CBP officials to centers
Republican Senators Ted Cruz held a tour of facilities Friday and said that ‘pods’ at the Donna center in Texas (above) designed to hold 80 children are packed with more than 700
Cruz, Senator James Lankford of Oklahoma and others shared images of a severely overcrowded holding facility in Donna, Texas, where Lankford said ‘pods’ designed to hold 80 children are packed with more than 700.
‘This is inhumane, it is wrong and it is the direct consequence of policy decisions by the Biden administration to stop building the wall, to return to catch-and-release, and to end the stay-in-Mexico policy,’ Cruz said at a press conference on Friday.
The night before Cruz led the delegation on a midnight border tour, where he claimed he could hear human smugglers ‘taunting’ Border Patrol from across the Rio Grande.
Meanwhile, Castro led a group of six Democratic House members to a Health and Human Services facility in Carrizo Springs, Texas, to ensure children were being ‘treated humanely.’
Castro said ‘nobody should be kept in those conditions,’ but blamed the Trump administration.
‘We need to be clear about something: President Biden inherited a situation where the previous administration had sought to dismantle the infrastructure for processing asylum seekers and settling asylum seekers in the United States,’ he said.
People travel across the Suchiate River, the natural border between Guatemala and Mexico Sunday
Thousands of migrants continue to cross the southern border of Mexico each day, as entire communities make a living off the passing migrants heading north to its northern border with the US
Migrants cross the Suchiate River from Guatemala and Mexico, as Mexican immigration agents enforce limits on all but essential travel
Mexican immigration agents stop people who crossed the Suchiate River Monday as anyone not permitted to enter is sent back to Guatemala
On Sunday, the same day Mexico imposed new measures to shut down migrant crossings at its border with Guatemala, 1,200 people made the boat ride at a single remote jungle outpost without showing a document to anyone
Mexico wants to again appear cooperative with the US, as in 2019 when, faced with tariffs from Trump, it deployed its newly created National Guard to slow the flow of migrants from Central America
Thousands of migrants continue to cross the southern border of Mexico each day, as entire communities make a living off the passing migrants heading north to its northern border with the US.
On Sunday, the same day Mexico imposed new measures to shut down migrant crossings at its border with Guatemala, 1,200 people made the boat ride at a single remote jungle outpost without showing a document to anyone.
Mexico wants to again appear cooperative, as in 2019 when, faced with tariffs from Trump, it deployed its newly created National Guard to slow the flow of migrants from Central America.
But the reality is it’s business as usual.
Among those crossing Sunday was Yuri Gabriela Ponce, a 30-year-old mother who left Tegucigalpa, Honduras, with her three children, ages 2, 5 and 9, and husband after he lost his construction job and was unable to find another.
Ponce said Wednesday they were uncertain where to head now that they have reached Mexico.
‘They told us that farther ahead there is a checkpoint and we don’t know what to do,’ Ponce said. ‘I hope that with the children they help us.’
The family left two older children with relatives and were planning to cross into Mexico much farther south, but heard a rumor that criminals were stealing children and killing parents there.
Migrants sleep under a gazebo at a park in the Mexican border city of Reynosa, Saturday
Dozens of migrants who earlier tried to cross into the US in order to seek asylum have turned this park into an encampment for those expelled from the US
Central American migrants who managed to cross illegally into the US in order to seek asylum sleep in a park in Mexico after being sent back to the country
Mexico relies heavily on highway checkpoints transiting its narrow southern isthmus to prevent migrants heading north. It stepped up those efforts this week, as well as at airports in the region
Members of the National Guard salute during the announcement of the deployment of security forces at the border as part of the new efforts by the Mexican government to cut the flow of migrants north
So they reversed course and came to the remote jungle outpost instead.
Mexico relies heavily on highway checkpoints transiting its narrow southern isthmus to prevent migrants heading north. It stepped up those efforts this week, as well as at airports in the region.
The more than 31,000 migrants the government has tallied so far this year roughly mirror the numbers from early 2019, before Trump forced Mexico to act.
But Mexico’s migrant detention numbers are more a sign of the government’s effort than a reliable representation of the overall migration flow.
Much of that traffic becomes clandestine in Mexico as smugglers pack migrants into semi-trailers and vans or put them on buses or airplanes with fake documents. Often they only reappear at the US border.
‘The migrants are visible on the Guatemala side, but become invisible crossing into Mexico,’ said the Rev. René Sop Xivir of Jesuit Immigrant Services at the southern border.
On Sunday, dozens of Mexican immigration officials waited on the banks of the Suchiate River 300 miles away, facing news cameras as they turned back mostly Guatemalan shoppers with no intention of migrating.
That show of purpose came days before a visit Tuesday by Biden’s top immigration advisers, seeking to address the growing problem at the border.
‘They want to pretend they are doing operations, for the press,’ Sop Xivir said. ‘In practice there isn’t much control.’