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Mayorkas slams Texas Gov. Abbott for saying Biden should use executive authority on border

By Camila DeChalus and Michelle Shen, CNN

(CNN) — Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas pushed back Sunday on Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s recent remarks that President Joe Biden should use more executive authority to take action on the southern border.

“He couldn’t be more wrong,” Mayorkas said of the Republican governor in an interview with CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union.”

“As a matter of fact, former President Trump tried to close the border, and it was enjoined in the courts and never saw the light of day,” the secretary said, before later adding, “The reality is that Congress needs to act, and President Biden said that Congress needs to get a spine.”

Last week on “State of the Union,” Abbott said Biden was “not using his executive authority to do any of those things that Congress has already authorized. The president does not need new laws.”

Abbott has emerged as one of the top critics of Biden administration in a blame game between the president, Congress and state officials regarding action on the border.

Senate Republicans last month blocked a bipartisan border bill – which would have enabled restrictive border measures and was crafted in part by a GOP senator – amid a torrent of attacks on the bill by former President Donald Trump and top House Republicans.

Tensions between Abbott and the federal government reached an all-time high after Texas state authorities placed razor wires along the US-Mexico border to deter migrants from illegally crossing into the country. After the incident, Mayorkas sent a cease-and-desist letter to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, calling these actions “unconstitutional.” In January, the US Supreme Court ruled that US Border Patrol agents could remove the razor wire while the state’s legal challenge to the practice plays out.

Mayorkas on Sunday criticized Abbott over what he described as the governor’s refusal to work with the Biden administration to address issues at the border and over his role in busing migrants to large Democratic-led cities across the country.

“This coming from an individual who is purposefully refusing to coordinate, communicate, collaborate with other officials and trying to wreak havoc in other cities and states across the country,” Mayorkas said of Abbott.

Mayorkas evaded questions about what executive actions the Biden administration is considering to address issues along the US-Mexico border. The Homeland Security secretary insisted that Congress take up legislation to reform the immigration system.

CNN reported last month that the White House was considering executive action to restrict migrants’ ability to seek asylum at the US-Mexico border if they crossed illegally – a maneuver reminiscent of controversial action from the Trump era and one that would be sure to invite fierce backlash from immigration advocates and progressives.

The secretary defended Biden’s visit to the southern border last week after the National Border Patrol Council, the union that represents Border Patrol agents, criticized his trip.

“The important message that we communicated from Brownsville, Texas, is the fact that Congress needs to act,” Mayorkas said. “This system has been broken for decades, and we have a bipartisan solution that will deliver much-needed resources and much-needed changes to the broken system.

Last month, the US House, by an extremely narrow margin, voted to impeach Mayorkas over his handling of the southern border, making him the first Cabinet secretary to be impeached in almost 150 years.

Asked Sunday by Bash whether the US Senate should dismiss the charges or whether he wanted an opportunity to defend himself at a trial, Mayorkas demurred.

“I’m going to let the Senate, of course, execute its responsibilities as it thinks best in the service of our country. I am going to focus on work,” he said.

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