EXCLUSIVE: Department of Homeland Security officials described a tense January meeting between Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas as “rough” according to newly unearthed emails — with agents telling Mayorkas that policies “aren’t working.”
The emails, obtained by the Heritage Foundation’s Oversight Project and provided to Fox News, show communications between DHS officials in the wake of a visit by Mayorkas to a morning muster of Border Patrol in Yuma, Arizona.
“Morning muster in Yuma was ROUGH,” Marsha Espinosa, assistant secretary of DHS public affairs, says in the Jan. 26 email. “One agent in the front town [sic] had his back turned to [Mayorkas] the entire time only to ask a question and then turned back.”
Espinosa went on to say that agents were not happy with either the administration’s border policies, as well as its COVID-19 policies — which included a vaccine mandate and the use of facemasks. She said that Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz had provided support to the under-fire secretary.
“Agent sentiment (the ones that spoke up) is that policies aren’t working, don’t like masks or vaxx mandate. [Ortiz] stepped up to provide support and asked to intro [Mayorkas] next time to better set up,” she wrote.
The emails give a glimpse into the internal fallout of the meeting, which was reported at the time by Fox News and others as a glimpse into the sour relations between the men and women in green and the head of DHS.
Townhall obtained audio of the meeting, which saw agents press Mayorkas on how agents were unable to patrol the border due to the policies of the Biden administration, while another reportedly said that Yuma was better under President Donald Trump as “everyone was doing their jobs.”
“The job has not gotten any easier over the last few months, and it was very, very difficult throughout 2021,” Mayorkas told the agents. “I know apprehending families and kids is not what you signed up to do. And now we got a composition that is changing even more with Cubans, Venezuelans, Nicaraguans, and the like, it just gets more difficult,”
“I know the policies of this administration are not particularly popular with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, but that’s the reality, and let’s see what we can do within that framework,” Mayorkas added.
The emails show how officials flagged that Mayorkas had mentioned that the administration was expanding Title 42 to an additional three countries that at that time hadn’t been made public.
It also shows officials circulating and tweaking draft statements as requests for comment on the Townhall piece came in from both Reuters and Fox News about the muster.
On Wednesday, a DHS spokesperson told Fox News Digital that the exchange “shows the tremendous respect the DHS staff have for the dedicated workforce at CBP, that the Secretary invited candor and a frank discussion with Border Patrol Agents, and that he listened to them.”
“That was the point of the trip, to meet and hear directly from the workforce,” the spokesperson said. “The Secretary has gone to the border over a dozen times and based on feedback from the workforce has taken steps such as deploying hundreds of Border Patrol Processing Coordinators to get more Agents back on the line, and supported a greater emphasis on prosecutions of those who assault Agents.”
Morale has continued to be an issue among Border Patrol agents, as they have faced a relentless crisis at the southern border — which many continue to blame on the policies of the Biden administration.
There were more than 2.3 million migrant encounters in Fiscal Year 2022, and more than 227,000 in September alone. That 2.3 million is an increase over the more than 1.7 million encountered in FY 2021.
Mayorkas would subsequently recount his experience to Ortiz in a taped interview, in which he said he “really appreciated the openness with which the agents expressed their views.”
“A couple of guys might have expressed them what I felt was unprofessionally — which was surprising to me because it’s something I’ve never seen in the Border Patrol in my… eight years of person-to-person exposure,” he said.
“But the substance of what was communicated really called for action, and we’re jumping on it — but we’ve got a lot of work to do,” he said.