DHS focused on keeping Americans safe despite impeachment ‘distractions’: DHS official

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(WASHINGTON) — Despite outside “distractions” the Department of Homeland Security is focused on keeping the American people safe, the acting deputy secretary told ABC News.

Acting Deputy Secretary Kristie Canegallo said the department, including Mayorkas, is working “day in and day out” to keep Americans safe and highlighted some of what the department accomplished in 2023.

Those “distractions” are presumably House Republicans, who are holding an impeachment hearing against Mayorkas on Wednesday due to their belief that he has failed to do enough to secure the border — a critique the secretary has rejected.

“We are focused on building on the work that we’ve done over the past year to prevent and prepare for and respond to so many threats,” Canegallo told ABC News. “When you think about what we’re managing, whether it’s the 25 natural disasters that had more than $1 billion in damages, strategic competition and aggression from nation states, that historic growth in global migration [or] transnational crime, there’s just so much that this department is managing, and Secretary Mayorkas has really been able to drive us to make historic investments in our workforce in innovation and partnerships, and notwithstanding some significant challenges, there’s a lot that we have to be proud of,” she said.

House Republicans, who are holding an impeachment hearing against Mayorkas on Wednesday, have said he hasn’t done enough to secure the border — a critique the secretary has rejected.

During the past year, the department seized over 48,500 pounds of fentanyl, enough to kill every American 33 times over, according to statistics provided by the department.

DHS stopped more fentanyl and arrested more drug traffickers in the last two years than the previous five years combined, according to the department.

The acting deputy secretary said the strategy in combatting fentanyl coming into the United States uses the intelligence gathered, the “smarts” of agents along the southwest border and “new technology” on the southwest border.

“More than 90% of fentanyl is coming in through ports of entry primarily in vehicles that are driven by US citizens,” Canegallo said. “We’ve really been intensifying our efforts along the border to disrupt those that federal smuggling, working very closely with our Mexican counterparts.”

Mayorkas said communities are safer because of DHS’ efforts.

“Our communities are safer and more resilient, our economy is more secure, and our government is more prepared thanks to the unprecedented work of the DHS workforce,” Mayorkas said in a statement.

“From managing a historic level of global migration, to helping secure travel for a record number of Americans, rescuing children from online sexual exploitation, and leading operations that kept fentanyl off our streets, DHS took dramatic steps this past year to enhance the security and readiness of our nation,” he added.

The southwest border has seen a historic increase in migrants apprehended, capped off by an all-time in December, when there were 302,000 migrants encountered along the southwest border.

The acting deputy secretary maintained that there is still positive news about border security despite the staggering figures.

“There is a lot to be proud of, our work to combat fentanyl, our work to improve security, and that’s what we’re focused on as opposed to distractions or whatever is happening on the hill,” she said. “If members were serious about wanting to address some of our immigration challenges, there are opportunities for them to do so and that’s what we’re very focused on in our conversations with the Senate.”

Beyond the border, Canegallo said DHS is focusing on the “challenges” to faith-based communities in the U.S. and other threats in the wake of Hamas’ Oct. 7 surprise terrorist attacks in Israel.

At airports around the U.S., the department says that the Transportation Security Administration has seized 6,500 guns at airports, setting an all-time record. TSA also screened 850 million travel passengers in 2023, a record-setting year for travel, DHS said.

In 2023, the Federal Emergency Management (FEMA) responded to 25 natural disasters, the most ever in the agency’s history, the department said.

DHS also touted its authority to investigate crimes against children. Homeland Security Investigations, the largest law enforcement arm of the department, was responsible for helping identify and rescue 1,110 children in 2023, the acting deputy secretary said.

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