On Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee directed a volley of questions at Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas over border security.
The issue of the United States-Mexico border and immigration enforcement is pertinent to state leaders in Texas, like Sen. Ted Cruz. For much of this year it has been at the forefront of the GOP senator's attention.
He had the following exchange with Mayorkas:
"Alright how about this: How many children have been in the Biden cages in calendar year 2021?" Cruz asked. The initial instinct from the DHS secretary is to argue with the senator over saying "cages."
Cruz pressed, "Fine you can disagree with it. How many children have been in the Biden cages? I've been to the Biden cages. I've seen the Biden cages. How many children have you detained at the Donna tent facility in the cages you built to hold kids? How many children have been in those cages?"
Cruz went to the United States-Mexico border back in March of this year. At today's hearing, he referred to this experience in grilling Mayorkas over exact statistics of how many children have passed through the "Biden cage" processing facilities like the one he saw in Donna, Texas.
"Uh I respectfully am not familiar with the term cages, and to what you are referring…." Mayorkas stammered.
"Enclosures in which they are locked in, in which I took photographs and put them out because you blocked the press and didn't want people to see the Biden cages, the secure facilities in which they are locked down in Donna … those facilities. How many children have been in them?" replied Cruz.
The closest response that Cruz gets out of Mayorkas is that he'll "circle back" on getting precise numbers, in similar fashion to White House press secretary Jen Psaki's earlier "circe back" slogan she chirped to the media.
That moment that Cruz brought out a blown-up picture of the Donna facility taken by him earlier this year, Mayorkas shifted gears.
"That um uh Senator um that is precisely why I articulated --" the DHS secretary began to say. "Children sleeping on floors, crushed in upon each other when I took this photograph the rate of COVID positivity was over ten percent," Cruz described. Mayorkas then asked for permission to speak. "You can answer the question. How many kids have been in these cages?" Cruz asked one more time.
The DHS secretary didn't reply with the statistics requested. "That is precisely why I stated in March of this year, that a border patrol station is no place for a child, number one. Number two…."
Cruz then asked whether President Joe Biden or Vice President Kamala Harris had been to this facility. Mayorkas could not give a clear answer.
Given the months of denial by Harris that she needed to visit the United States-Mexico border for herself (she eventually caved into doing so by summer), it's unclear how much latitude on immigration the vice president has.
Other questions asked at Tuesday's hearing delved into what Mayorkas had to say for the debunked story of Border Patrol agents "whipping" Haitian migrants.