FIRST ON FOX: Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., is calling on the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) to launch an investigation into whistleblower claims that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) special agents are being diverted at the border to give out sandwiches to migrants.
"According to the whistleblower, agents ‘are being told to shut down investigations to hand out sandwiches and escort migrants to the shower,’" Hawley said in a letter to Inspector General Joseph Cuffari. "This led to child exploitation suspects and fentanyl dealers evading indictment, including child molesters. "
Hawley had quizzed DHS Secretary Mayorkas last week about the testimony, adding that around 600 agents are believed to have been moved to the southern border. Mayorkas told Hawley the agents are "combating the fight against fentanyl."
"That's not what the special agent is alleging. That's not what she said," Hawley replied. "She said that they were being taken off of fentanyl interdiction, off child exploitation cases, off of their other investigations into criminals to make sandwiches. That's her quote. You're saying that this is a lie? That she's wrong?"
Mayorkas argued there were "a number of law enforcement priorities with the resources we have," to which Hawley asked, "Is making sandwiches one of them?"
"Of course not, senator. We accomplish a tremendous amount —" Mayorkas responded before Hawley jumped in, asking if the agent's testimony was wrong.
"Making sandwiches for illegal immigrants? Is she wrong? This is one of your agents. Is she wrong? She says that there are 600, at least, special agents pulled off of other cases, sent down to the border to babysit illegal immigrants. Is she wrong?" he asked.
Mayorkas said DHS personnel were used "to achieve the maximum law enforcement objective possible. That is what we do and I'm incredibly proud of what our people do every single day."
Fox News Digital has also reported on how HSI agents had been deployed on 30-day rotations as part of Operation Expanded Impact, which was launched last year as part of a DHS effort to target transnational criminal organizations involved in smuggling and human activity. However, one agent told Fox News Digital that they were often just helping with processing. DHS has said it has taken significant efforts to increase staffing at the border, and has surged resources and personnel. Active-duty troops were also moved to the border as the Title 42 public health order ended in May, and the number of asylum officers increased by 33%.
More recently, the White House has made a $14 billion supplemental funding request for border operations, which includes requests for more Border Patrol agents and processing coordinators, along with asylum officers and immigration judges, as well as attorneys and support staff.
"You're using skilled and trained special agents who are trained in criminal investigations and law enforcement tactics to guard people and to hand out food to individuals and help with processing," the agent said.
Hawley says in his letter to Cuffari that more whistleblowers have since contacted his office, who have said they often "babysit" illegal immigrants, who one said are "fed better than my kids."
"Most concerningly, all the whistleblowers allege that important criminal investigations stalled and suspects were not arrested or indicted as a result of these reassignments," he said. "Agents were pulled from investigations ranging from child exploitation to drug trafficking to counterterrorism."
Hawley tells the OIG that the movement of agents to the border is not only "bad policy" but also "may be illegal and in violation of existing regulations." He wants the IG to investigate the program and operations -- including how many agents have been reassigned, and how many abandoned investigations into criminal activity as a result.
A DHS OIG spokesperson told Fox News Digital that "to preserve the integrity of our work and protect our independence, we do not discuss or confirm investigations" and noted its prior reports on issues relating to migrant processing and screening.
Fox News' Brandon Gillespie contributed to this report.