U.S. Border Chief Raul Ortiz disputed that the Department of Homeland Security has "operational control" of the border with Mexico.
Ortiz's comments came Wednesday in testimony before the House Homeland Security Committee meeting in South Texas. CNN noted his remarks contradict a stance taken by DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.
The news network pointed out that Mayorkas has previously testified before lawmakers that the department does have operational control of the border. It did note he has not been as specific in his public comments.
"Does DHS have operational control of our entire border?" Committee Chair Mark Green, R-Tenn., asked Ortiz.
"No, sir," Ortiz responded.
The Hill reported that his reply came after Republicans repeatedly asked the same question to Mayorkas, who has said in hearings that the border was under control.
CNN reported that Green played a clip of Mayorkas saying that conditions at the border were under control.
"Do you think Secretary Mayorkas is lying there?" Green asked.
Ortiz declined to say whether Mayorkas was telling the truth.
"About 10 years ago, we used operational control as a measuring stick of our effectiveness along the southwest border," he said. "My new strategy is geared toward mission advantage."
Ortiz drew praise for his testimony, according to The Hill.
"Chief, you've got courage," Rep. Josh Brecheen, R-Okla., said. "I see you trying to be respectful and also see you being straightforward, and I want to appreciate you for doing that, for you to admit that we don't have operational control at our southern border."
A DHS official noted Wednesday that Mayorkas made a more nuanced answer at a hearing before the Senate last May, The Hill said.
"Well, actually there is a statutory definition which provides … that operational control is [if] no individual and no controlled substance passes through our border. So under that strict definition, this country has never had operational control, but obviously a layer of reasonableness must be applied here," Mayorkas said.
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