SALT LAKE CITY — Sen. Mitt Romney says he's "deeply troubled" about the vacancies in the Department of Homeland Security.
"I think it is dangerous, dangerous given what’s happening at the border, dangerous given the broad responsibility that the Department of Homeland Security has for protecting our nation. It is seriously troubling," he said.
The Utah Republican's comments came during a Senate Homeland Security Committee meeting two days after President Donald Trump announced the resignation of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.
Romney also expressed concern about the "transition process that has been carried out with regard to those vacancies," though he didn't single out Trump as being responsible for that.
Trump tweeted Sunday that Nielsen would be stepping down and that U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan would replace her until someone is chosen to permanently fill the job.
In addition, Trump has withdrawn his pick to lead U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and ousted the head of the Secret Service.
Romney's remarks also follow committee Chairman Ron Johnson, R-Wis., saying Monday that he is concerned with a "growing leadership void within the department tasked with addressing some of the most significant problems facing the nation."
Trump told reporters Tuesday he is not cleaning house at Homeland Security.
"I never said I'm cleaning house. I don't know who came up with that expression. We have a lot of good people over there. We have bad laws," he said.
At the hearing titled, "Unprecedented Migration at the U.S. Southern Border: Perspectives from the Frontline," Romney said Congress needs to pass measures to secure the border and have "systems that don’t attract people here in such huge numbers."
"If there were no fence, if there were no border patrol agents, if there were no ICE, and we just said, ‘Hey, anybody that wants to come into this country, come on in,’ my expectation is that you would have tens of millions, if not hundreds of millions or more people who would tell you, ‘I’d rather live in the United States than somewhere else,’ for many, many reasons," he said.33 comments on this story
Romney reiterated his call for a nationwide e-verify system for hiring, calling it "essential if we are going to turn off the magnet that draws people into the country illegally."
Sunday on NBC News' "Meet the Press," Romney echoed Trump's call for Congress to pass immigration legislation to toughen rules on asylum.
Last week, Romney said the number of families and children coming across the southern border with Mexico seeking asylum has reached a crisis. They are being allowed to stay in the country without proper investigating or vetting, he said.
"It's a real security risk and it's overwhelming our system, particularly on our border states," he said.