05.12.21

Lankford Calls Out Biden For Sending NASA Rocket Scientists to the Southern Border Instead of Finishing the Wall

WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) called out the Biden Administration for their continued failure to address the crisis at the southern border while secretly recruiting a “volunteer force” of federal employees from NASA, Department of Homeland Security, Health and Human Services, and Department of Agriculture to work at the border transferring migrants with very few training requirements. 

Lankford wrote, “I write to express grave concern about the ongoing crisis at our Southern border. I have become aware that your Administration has sought to recruit a “volunteer force” of Federal employees to help address the surge of migrants. Your Administration has been touting its recent ability to transfer migrants from CBP custody to HHS custody as a success, but your need to recruit this volunteer force demonstrates again that the Federal government lacks the capacity to deal with this crisis.” 

Earlier today, Lankford participated in a press conference with his Senate colleagues to continue to address the national security and humanitarian crisis at the US southern border, which was created by President Biden’s failed policies preventing construction of the wall and allowing illegal migrants to enter into the country without a COVID-19 test or background check. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, City of Yuma Mayor Douglas Nicholls, and National Border Patrol Council President Brandon Judd joined the Senators in their call for Biden to address the border crisis. 

“The significant number of detailees your Administration has requested represent a significant workforce and budgetary transfer from other Federal agencies to border enforcement. Rather than funding border security outright, your Administration has transferred the burdens of your open border policies to other agencies that also have critical missions,” Lankford continued.

Tomorrow, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas will testify in front of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee after Lankford has repeatedly requested answers from his agency regarding the ongoing crisis. Lankford took a trip to the Arizona border in March during which he visited the unfinished border wall system on the southern border that was halted by the Biden Administration. Lankford also traveled to Texas with a delegation of Senators to tour the Rio Grande Valley area of the southern border as part of his ongoing work to provide necessary oversight of the crisis. Lankford spoke about the situation at the southern border on the Senate floor and sent a letter to GAO Comptroller General Gene L. Dodaro highlighting President Biden’s suspension of border wall funding and construction without lawful justification. 

Full text of the letter is available HERE and below.

Dear Mr. President:

I write to express grave concern about the ongoing crisis at our Southern border. I have become aware that your Administration has sought to recruit a ‘volunteer force’ of Federal employees to help address the surge of migrants. Your Administration has been touting its recent ability to transfer migrants from CBP custody to HHS custody as a success, but your need to recruit this volunteer force demonstrates again that the Federal government lacks the capacity to deal with this crisis.  

On March 16, 2021, Secretary Mayorkas noted that more than 560 US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) employees have been detailed to the Southern border to assist US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in processing unaccompanied children (UACs). Since then, I have seen reports in the news that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) have sent emails to their workforce requesting that they consider details to the Southern border to serve as a member of the ‘volunteer force.’ In addition to these requests for detailed employees, I am aware of at least one USA Jobs posting requesting volunteers to help the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) at HHS process UACs.

On April 30, 2021, there were 22,577 UACs in ORR custody. On April 30, 2020, HHS reported that there were only 13,316 UACs in ORR custody. This means that ORR has seen a nearly 70 percent increase in the numbers of UACs that are in its custody. US Customs and Border Protection reported that it has apprehended 17,171 UACs in April 2021 and 18,890 during March 2021. Even Secretary Mayorkas has conceded that our government is seeing a 20-year high in the number of UACs crossing the Southwest border this year.

Emails leaked to the media suggest that the Administration is overwhelmed by the number of UACs in HHS custody. Federal employees are told that they can receive a detail of up-to three months to help HHS manage this crisis. The leaked emails also note that this detail is indefinitely renewable, suggesting that your Administration recognizes this historic surge in migrants will not slow for the foreseeable future.[1] I am aware of over 560 employees being detailed from DHS and another 500 being detailed from the US Department of Agriculture. Relocating more than 1,000 employees show that we either have serious workforce inefficiencies in our Federal government or their absence must be causing a significant strain on the budgets and missions of their home agencies. 

The significant number of detailees your Administration has requested represent a significant workforce and budgetary transfer from other Federal agencies to border enforcement. Rather than funding border security outright, your Administration has transferred the burdens of your open border policies to other agencies that also have critical missions. 

The leaked emails also suggest that those who are accepted for details to the Southern border are not receiving the specialized training necessary to work with detained UACs. As you are aware, many UACs experience significant trauma during the journey to our border. I am concerned that natural resources experts from the USDA and scientists from NASA do not have the specialization necessary to preserve the wellbeing of UACs in HHS custody.  

Rather than diverting resources from other agencies and Federal personnel, you should instead acknowledge that we are confronted with a national security and humanitarian crisis and resume and complete construction of the border wall, enforce the law at our Southern border, and work with Congress to fix our broken asylum system.  

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