Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said Thursday that Black Lives Matter is not a domestic terrorist threat, distinguishing the group from right-wing extremists whom he has cast as the most significant terrorism-related danger to the U.S.
In testimony to Congress, Mr. Mayorkas also defended his 15-month tenure at the helm of the Department of Homeland Security against an onslaught of criticism from Republicans who questioned his priorities, demanded he resign, and in one case even suggested he had permanently stained the name “Alejandro.”
“They believe you’re a traitor,” the Colorado Republican said.
Mr. Mayorkas called the remarks “so profoundly offensive on so many levels.”
“I won’t ask you for an apology,” he told Mr. Buck.
“Don’t,” the congressman replied.
Mr. Mayorkas was closing out his third hearing on Capitol Hill in two days, defending the Biden administration’s handling of immigration policy, its preparations for a looming border surge and its other activities, including combatting terrorism.
Democrats focused heavily on that latter aspect, saying the U.S. has seen a shocking surge of violent incidents from White supremacists and right-wing militias, and praising Mr. Mayorkas for his focus on them.
The secretary said he is seeing a rise in social media posts calling for violence against elected officials, and said his department is trying to help local communities “identify individuals who very well could be descending into violence by reason of ideologies of hate, false narratives or other disinformation and misinformation.”
Pressed by Rep. Greg Steube, Florida Republican, on how he classified Black Lives Matter and Antifa, Mr. Mayorkas drew distinctions. He said he did not “consider Black Lives Matter” to fit the definition of domestic terrorism.
“So the riots that we saw over the summer of 2020 and the killing of David Dorn by an Antifa member, that wasn’t domestic terror?” Mr. Steube asked.
“I leave it to the Department of Justice to define domestic terrorism with respect to particular incidents,” he said.
Under Mr. Mayorkas, Homeland Security has labeled domestic terrorism as the biggest terrorism-related threat facing the U.S., topping foreign actors such as al Qaeda.
Rep. Dan Bishop, North Carolina Republican, challenged that assessment, wondering how many foreign terrorists have snuck in among the millions of illegal immigrants who have breached the border over the last 15 months.
“Are you waiting for a mushroom cloud?” the lawmaker asked.
“I won’t dignify that last question with a response,” Mr. Mayorkas said.
Democrats said Republicans were striving for political theater rather than immigration solutions.
“These guys, if you want a dog to bark at cars that drive by in front of your house, they would be great at that. You should hire them to do that. I would never hire them to solve a problem,” said Rep. Eric Swalwell, California Democrat.
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