CNN

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas faces off Wednesday with Congress in a series of high-profile hearings that will put the secretary and the administration’s immigration policies in the spotlight ahead of the midterm election.

Mayorkas will meet Wednesday with both the House Homeland Security Committee and a subcommittee on House Appropriations. On Thursday, he will sit before the House Judiciary Committee. The hearings are part of Mayorkas’ routine efforts to request funding for his agency and for Congress to provide oversight.

Yet the hearings come as the administration is facing increasing criticism from Republicans and some Democrats about its approach to ending a Trump-era pandemic restriction, known as Title 42, on the US-Mexico border. That authority allows border officials to immediately send migrants back to their home country citing a public health emergency. The Biden administration announced in April it was ending the practice on May 23.

The decision has sparked frustration by some in the President’s own party, with members calling for a delay in the decision and others calling on the administration to deliver a more detailed strategy of how they plan to grapple with a potential increase in immigration once the order is lifted.

“We need an immigration policy we truly do. And 42 should not be done away with until we get an immigration policy or until the CDC basically says we do not have a health crisis. With a health crisis, we can’t take any more chance of people coming undocumented and unchecked. And that’s all. It’s very simple,” West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat, said Tuesday.

On Tuesday, Mayorkas sought to quell those concerns hosting a call with members laying out his agency’s plan to stem the flow of migrants at the Southern border.

Earlier in the week, a federal judge in Louisiana temporarily blocked the administration’s decision to end Title 42. A senior administration official told reporters Tuesday that the administration will comply when the court issues its order and, in the meantime, is preparing for restrictions to end.

According to a Department of Homeland Security memo issued Tuesday, US Customs and Border Protection deployed 600 officers and agents to the US-Mexico border and is expanding its capacity to hold around 18,000 migrants in custody, up from 13,000, among a slew of other measures. The administration, which began offering Covid-19 vaccines to migrants earlier this year, is expanding sites to 24 locations to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus by May 23.

The department added that it will administer consequences to migrants who don’t have claims of asylum by removing them, detaining single adults when appropriate, as well as accelerating asylum adjudications.

Mayorkas is expected to run through those plans in his opening testimony Wednesday.

For their part, Republicans are expected to make the Mayorkas hearing a preview of their message in the upcoming midterm elections. Republicans have already begun making immigration a central component of their election-year strategy. All eyes are on Jim Jordan, the top Republican on House Judiciary who has previewed he plans to grill Mayorkas on Title 42 and other immigration policies.

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