Department of Homeland Security (DHS) chief Alejandro Mayorkas has fired nearly all members of a homeland security advisory panel, retaining only its senior leadership, according to a letter obtained by media outlets and confirmed by Republicans on a House committee.
In the March 26 letter (pdf) to members of the Homeland Security Advisory Council (HSAC), Mayorkas announced that in “the service of an orderly transition to a new model for the HSAC,” he would be ending the current term of all HSAC members, effective Friday.
Mayorkas wrote that, in weighing the “new model” for the HSAC, he is considering how it can “bring the greatest value to the Department and how the expertise, judgment, and counsel of its members can be harnessed most effectively to advance the Department’s mission.”
The dismissed members include both Democrats and Republicans, as well as Trump-era officials like former DHS Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli and former acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Thomas Homan. In May of 2020, then acting DHS head Chad Wolf appointed seven new members to the council.
Spared from the purge are three individuals: William Bratton, a former New York police commissioner who heads the council as its Chair; Karen Tandy, a retired administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration, who serves as its Vice Chair; and William Webster, former director of the FBI and the CIA, who will stay on as Chair Emeritus.
Mayorkas said that the council, which is made up of experts and former intelligence and security officials who advise the DHS head on various issues, will be formed again “in the next few weeks, once the new model has been developed.”
The Republican members of the House Homeland Security Committee wrote critically about Mayorkas’ decision, saying that the “action sends the message that this Administration has no intention of upholding a bipartisan, unifying approach to securing our homeland.”
“The advisory council is not intended to be an echo chamber for what the current DHS Secretary wants to hear,” they wrote.
The GOP’s ranking member on the committee, Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.), said in a statement that, “it’s an absolute shame that Secretary Mayorkas has removed these well-respected homeland security leaders who have dedicated their careers to strengthening our homeland security posture.”
“I would urge the Secretary to take a thoughtful approach as he reconstitutes the HSAC and be mindful of the message he intends to send,” Katko added.
While Mayorkas did not provide any details about his vision for recomposing the HSAC, Bratton told CNN that Mayorkas wants a council that reflects the current priorities of the department under the Biden administration, in areas that include immigration and domestic terrorism.
After taking office, President Joe Biden moved quickly to reverse most of the immigration policies of former President Donald Trump, proposed a pathway to citizenship for millions of people in the United States unlawfully, and promised reforms that would “create a humane asylum system.”
Republicans have blamed Biden’s policies and messaging for the recent surge in people seeking to enter the United States illegally, while the president has sought to portray it as a seasonal spike.
“It happens every year,” Biden said Thursday in reference to the surge in illegal border crossings. “Does anybody suggest that there was a 31 percent increase under Trump because he was a nice guy and he was doing good things at the border? That’s not the reason they’re coming,” he added, referring to a spike in illegal border crossings in May 2019, when Trump was in office.
Mayorkas’ purge is similar to a move by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who on Feb. 1 called for the ouster of hundreds of members of the Pentagon’s advisory boards. Under that decision, all members of 31 Pentagon advisory boards were fired, while a total of 40 advisory boards would be subjected to a so-called “zero-based review,” a process that is to examine the case for the continued existence of the boards, and could lead to their future dissolution and dismissal of members.