(CNSNews.com) - Attorney General Merrick Garland told Congress on Thursday he doesn't know how many border-crossers are being prosecuted for entering the country illegally; nor does he know how many employers are being prosecuted for knowingly hiring an illegal alien.
"Again, I don't know the number off the top of my head, but I'd be happy to have staff try to get back to you," Garland told his questioner, Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.).
McClintock also asked Garland if he agrees that aliens who fail to appear at their appointed immigration hearings should be deported.
"I'm not really familiar (with) exactly the circumstance you're talking about," Garland said. "There are rules about removal, and there are rules that the department has already established."
McClintock tried again: "If someone is ordered deported by a court, should they be removed?"
"They're ordered deported by a court, then we have an obligation to follow the court's order," Garland replied.
McClintock noted that President Biden has instructed Immigration and Customs Enforcement not to conduct such deportations.
"I'm not familiar with the specific thing you're talking about. I'm sorry," Garland responded.
After the hearing ended, McClintock told Fox News he suspects the Justice Department is not prosecuting many, if any, of the 1.7 million people who have crossed into the United States illegally this year.
"It's a misdemeanor to cross the border outside of a port of entry, but it's a felony to cross after you have been deported," McClintock said. "And I don't think they're prosecuting any of that. The fact of the matter is, he doesn't know and doesn't seem to care.
"And that's what I find particularly galling, particularly after the news of yesterday, where we have now have had more illegal crossings this year than in the entire history of our country."
McClintock asked Garland at Thursday's hearing if he agrees that the failure to prosecute illegal border crossings "might have something to do with the fact that our borders now being overwhelmed by illegal immigrants who tell reporters they wouldn't have considered making that trip under the Donald Trump administration."
"If you ask the migrants," McClintock said, "they'll tell you, specifically, what's driving it. They can do it now. They can get in...and not fear prosecution from you. You know, Gallup tells us, there are about 42 million people living just in Latin America and the Caribbean who intend to come to the United States if they can, based upon their polling."
Later, McClintock told Fox News's Charles Payne, "If you don't enforce your immigration laws, you have no borders. And if you have no borders, you no longer have a country. We simply become a vast international territory between Canada and Mexico, both of which, by the way, do have immigration laws they really enforce."
Here is a transcript of McClintock’s exchange with the attorney general:
TOM MCCLINTOCK: It is a federal crime to cross the border outside of a port of entry, is it not?
MERRICK GARLAND: Yes, it's a misdemeanor. That's true.
TOM MCCLINTOCK: Well, your job is to prosecute federal crimes. How many have you actually prosecuted of that 1.7 million?
MERRICK GARLAND: So, the Justice Department doesn't make those arrests. Those are made by Homeland --
TOM MCCLINTOCK: No, no. But the Justice Department's responsible for prosecuting them. How many are you prosecuting?
MERRICK GARLAND: I don't know the answer to that, but they have to be refereed by the --
TOM MCCLINTOCK: A lot of the -- Wait a second. You know exactly how many people you're prosecuting from the riot on January 6, but you can't even give me a ballpark guess of how many people --
MERRICK GARLAND: I can't --
TOM MCCLINTOCK: You're prosecuting of the 1.7 million who have illegally crossed our border, committing a federal crime in doing so?
MERRICK GARLAND: I don't have that number on the top of my head, but I'd be happy to have our staff get back to you.
TOM MCCLINTOCK: Do you think that the failure to prosecute illegal border crossings might have something to do with the fact that our borders now being overwhelmed by illegal immigrants who tell reporters they wouldn't have considered making that trip under the Donald Trump administration?
MERRICK GARLAND: I think there are substantial number of issues driving migration towards the United States from the pandemic [Inaudible]
TOM MCCLINTOCK: Well, if you ask migrants --
MERRICK GARLAND: And the earthquakes --
TOM MCCLINTOCK: If you ask the migrants, they'll tell you, specifically, what's driving it. They can do it now. They can get in. Gallup -- and not fear prosecution from you. You know, Gallup tells us, there are about 42 million people living just in Latin America and the Caribbean who intend to come to the United States if they can based upon their polling.
A lot of people come each year on temporary visas, but then they fail to leave when those visas expire, again, in violation of federal law. Do you believe that those who illegally overstay their visas should respect our laws and return to their home countries?
MERRICK GARLAND: I think they should respect our laws. It's up to the Department of Homeland Security to make determinations about how we resolve these matters.
TOM MCCLINTOCK: And yet the administration is proposing amnesty to most visa overstays who arrived before January of 2021, including those whose visas have yet to expire. So, what you're telling us and what you're doing are two very different things. Let me go on. It's unlawful for an employer to knowingly hire an illegal alien.
How many prosecutions you pursuing under this law?
MERRICK GARLAND: Again, I don't know the number off the top of my head, but I'd be happy to have staff try to get back to you.
TOM MCCLINTOCK: It shocks me, given the fact that this is now an historic high on illegal border crossings -- you're the chief law enforcement officer of our country. You come here before this committee, you devote not a word in your spoken remarks to this issue. You devote, out of a 10-page written statement, one paragraph simply saying we need to expedite the immigration proceedings for asylum claims.
TOM MCCLINTOCK: I find that astonishing. Let me ask you this. Do you agree that an alien who's received proper notice of his or her immigration court hearing, who fails to appear at that hearing, absent exceptional circumstances, and is ordered removed in absentia should be removed from this country?
MERRICK GARLAND: And I'm not really familiar at exactly the circumstance you're talking about. There are rules about removal, and there are rules that the department has already established.
TOM MCCLINTOCK: When someone is ordered deported by a court --
MERRICK GARLAND: I'm sorry.
TOM MCCLINTOCK: If someone is someone is ordered deported --
MERRICK GARLAND: Yeah.
TOM MCCLINTOCK: By a court, should they be removed?
MERRICK GARLAND: They're ordered deported by a court, then we have an obligation to follow the court's order.
TOM MCCLINTOCK: And yet, the president on his opening day in office instructed Customs and -- Immigration and Customs Enforcement not to conduct such deportations.
MERRICK GARLAND: I'm not familiar with the specific thing you're talking about. I'm sorry.