President Biden’s nominee for FEMA administrator, Deanne Criswell, told senators Thursday that she’s unfamiliar with what the agency is doing since it was summoned to help address a migrant surge along the US-Mexico border.
Criswell, currently commissioner of New York City Emergency Management, said she hasn’t been briefed by Biden administration officials on the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s role.
“I’ve not been briefed on their specific activities that they’re performing,” Criswell testified to Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) at her confirmation hearing before the Senate Homeland Security Committee.
She added: “I’m not familiar with the details of exactly what support FEMA is providing, but I do understand that they are providing assistance with a small footprint to assist HHS and CBP with their mission — in particular, of trying to identify locations to provide the sheltering for the migrants.”
Later, Criswell told Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) that what little she knows has been gleaned from public remarks from other officials.
“Senator, I have not been briefed on the specifics of what FEMA is doing. I do understand from a recent testimony from acting administrator [Robert] Fenton that they are providing some assistance at the border,” she said.
“If confirmed, you know, obviously one of the very first things that I want to do is get a better understanding of the role that FEMA is playing, the assistance that they’re providing, to make sure that we’re supporting HHS and CBP and the execution of their missions.”
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) asked Criswell for her thoughts on what more FEMA could do to help with the migrant crisis, which includes increasingly crowded detention camps for unaccompanied minors.
“I have not been briefed on the specific activities of what FEMA is doing, but if confirmed, I look forward to getting a better understanding of FEMA’s current role, and I would appreciate the opportunity to work with you and your team to see what we can do to better assist,” she said.
Officials apprehended more than 100,000 people along the US-Mexico border in February, a 28 percent jump from January. And the number is expected to rise further in March.
Republicans blame Biden’s border policies and say proposed immigration reform legislation creates new “pull” factors for migrants.