Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack appeared reluctant to answer Republican South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham’s repeated questions about border security.
Graham pressed Vilsack several times during a Wednesday hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, asking about the record number of apprehensions in recent months and how President Joe Biden’s policies were impacting the flow of illegal immigration. (RELATED: ‘I’m Not Going To Be Extorted’: Lindsey Graham Blasts Democrats For Threatening To Change The Rules If They Can’t Win Votes)
“Is the southern border secure?” Graham cut straight to the chase after thanking Vilsack for coming.
“I think it’s fair to say, Senator, that there are ways in which we can improve —” Vilsack replied, but Graham quickly cut him off.
“That’s not the question,” he said, asking again, “Is it secured? If you can’t figure this out, is that a hard question?”
“It can be a hard question,” Vilsack protested.
“It’s not today,” Graham persisted, arguing that there were already record numbers flooding the border and asking whether legalizing immigrants without first securing the border would only exacerbate the problem. “Will it be a run on the border?”
“I don’t believe so,” Vilsack answered.
“You don’t believe so? You don’t believe that if we give legal status to hundreds of thousands of people without first securing the border there won’t be a rush on the border,” Graham pushed back.
Vilsack argued that many of those who would be legalized were migrant workers who had already been in the country for some length of time.
“Do you understand pull factors?” Graham asked.
“I understand the nature of this workforce,” Vilsack replied.
“Do you understand that if you give legal status to one person without first securing the border, you’re going to have a run on the border ten times worse tha we have — you don’t believe that?” Graham tried a different tack.
“I don’t believe so. The reason I don’t is because I think the primary —” Vilsack tried to push back, but Graham interrupted.
“I just think that’s ludicrous. I’ve been involved in every immigration bill there has been and we always secured the border first because of this very reason. You don’t give amnesty and hope people won’t keep coming. You secure the border, then you provide legal status. We’re doing it ass backwards,” he said.
Graham went on to argue that there needed to be hearings about what was going on at the border before there were any further hearings on granting legal status to anyone.
He wrapped up his line of questioning by asking whether Vilsack believed that the Biden administration’s wholesale approach to overturning former President Donald Trump’s border policies was impacting the record numbers at the border.
“That’s a complicated issue,” Vilsack said again, prompting Graham to respond, “No, it’s not, it’s really simple.”
Vilsack argued that economic hardships, food shortages and the pandemic had driven the record-breaking surge in migrants coming to the border, but Graham continued to press the idea that dramatic changes in policy may have been at least partly responsible.
Graham’s final question centered once again on pull factors and whether or not Vilsack had discussed them with Customs and Border Patrol agents who were on the ground — and he said that he had not done so since he served under former President Barack Obama.
“Go talk to them and you’ll find out how wrong you are if you talk to them,” Graham concluded.