House Republicans on Sunday released two articles of impeachment against Alejandro N. Mayorkas, the secretary of homeland security, accusing President Biden’s top immigration official of refusing to follow the law and violating public trust in his management. of an increase in migration on the United States border with Mexico.
Leaders of the House Homeland Security Committee laid out their case against Mayorkas before a Tuesday meeting to approve the charges, paving the way for a quick House vote early next month to impeach him. It would be the culmination of Republican attacks on Biden’s immigration policies and an extraordinary move given an emerging consensus among legal scholars that Mayorkas’ actions do not constitute high crimes or misdemeanors.
The push comes as House Republicans, egged on by former President Donald J. Trump, oppose a bipartisan border compromise that Mayorkas helped negotiate with a group of senators, which Biden has promised to sign. House Republican lawmakers have dismissed the deal as too weak and argued they can’t trust Biden to crack down on immigration now when he hasn’t in the past.
The charges against Mayorkas, if approved by the full House, will almost certainly fail in the Democratic-led Senate, where Mayorkas would be tried and a two-thirds majority would be needed to convict and remove him from office. . But the process would produce a remarkable political spectacle in an election year, effectively testing Biden’s immigration record as Trump, who has made the border crackdown his signature issue, seeks to secure the Republican presidential nomination to run against him.
The first article of impeachment essentially calls the Biden administration’s border policies an official crime. It accuses Mayorkas of deliberately and systematically disobeying laws requiring the detention of immigrants through “catch and release” policies that allow some to remain in the United States pending court proceedings and others to flee certain war-ravaged countries economically to live. and work in the country temporarily. Immigration laws give the president wide latitude to do both.
The second article accuses Mayorkas of lying to Congress about whether the border was secure and obstructing lawmakers’ efforts to investigate it.
“These articles present a clear, compelling and irrefutable case for the impeachment of Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas,” Representative Mark Green, Republican of Tennessee and chairman of the House Homeland Security panel, said in a statement. “Congress has a duty to see that the executive branch implements and enforces the laws we have passed.”
The Biden administration and Democrats have defended that Mayorkas acted legally and truthfully, arguing that he fully complied with GOP investigations even before they opened an impeachment inquiry. They have also criticized the impeachment trial as a political exercise, accusing Republicans of scapegoating Mayorkas as a favor to the far right instead of working with them on bipartisan solutions to mitigate what leaders of both parties consider a crisis. border.
Republicans “are abusing Congress’s impeachment power to appease their MAGA members, score political points, and divert Americans’ attention from their do-nothing Congress,” Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi said in a statement. the ranking Democrat on the panel, adding: “The House must reject this bogus resolution.”
The charges are being filed as top Republicans and Democrats work to save the bipartisan border security deal emerging in the Senate, which would make it harder to seek asylum, increase detention capacity and force a freeze on crossings if encounters occur. with immigrants exceed the average. of 5,000 per day over the course of a week.
Biden has pledged to “close the border” if Congress sends him the commitment, while Trump has pressured Republican lawmakers to oppose it as insufficient. Speaker Mike Johnson has said the deal is likely “dead on arrival” in the House, instead promising to bring articles of impeachment against Mayorkas to the floor “as soon as possible.”
House leaders have been threatening for more than a year to hold Mayorkas personally responsible for an increase in migrant crossings and drug trafficking across the southern border with Mexico. Their efforts have accelerated in recent weeks, after months in which Republican leaders seemed unable to muster enough support within their own ranks.
The change came after Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., tried to force an early impeachment vote, a move that failed when a group of Republicans and more traditional Democrats voted to refer the matter to the security panel. national.
The committee rushed the impeachment process this month, holding only two hearings and interviewing no federal officials (including Mayorkas himself) before its Republican members unanimously recommended moving forward with charges.
The articles seek to blame Mayorkas for the increase in immigrants arriving at the southern border in recent years and trying to enter the United States without a visa. They accuse him of bringing into the country even people with criminal records and refusing to deport those with removal orders, while he misrepresents the situation at the border by telling Congress that his department had “operational control.”
Mayorkas has previously explained that Border Patrol agents use a different definition of “operational control” than what appears in the law. He has defended his policies by arguing that the department detains and expels illegal immigrants to the greatest extent limited resources allow, and uses parole authority to humanely manage unprecedented pressure on the southern border.
Republicans moved quickly through the investigation without even issuing a subpoena for Mayorkas to testify in his own defense, revoking an invitation for him to appear in person after a scheduling disagreement and ordering him to instead submit a written statement within the 10 days after the final hearing. on January 18.
The GOP said that deadline would expire on Sunday, but Democrats and Mayorkas’ representatives argue he has until Wednesday, the day after the panel is expected to approve the charges against him.
Democrats say the impeachment process has been plagued by cuts by Republicans, whose witnesses included grieving mothers of victims of brutal crimes committed by undocumented immigrants and three state attorneys general who are suing Mayorkas. And they reject the substance of the charges against Mayorkas, noting that legal experts argued during testimony before the panel that the complaints against him amounted to a political dispute, not constitutional crimes.
“What is conspicuously missing from these articles is any actual charges or even a shred of evidence of high crimes or misdemeanors – the constitutional standard for impeachment,” Thompson said in his statement. “The Republicans’ so-called ‘investigation’ into Secretary Mayorkas has been a remarkably fact-free affair,” he added.
House Republicans have rejected the criticism, maintaining that the Constitution’s instruction to impeach for “treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors” does not tie their hands.
“His illegal behavior was exactly what the framers gave us the power to remedy by impeachment,” Green said of Mayorkas.
If Mayorkas were indicted, he would become the second Cabinet secretary in U.S. history to suffer that fate. The last, William W. Belknap, Ulysses S. Grant’s Secretary of War, was accused in 1876 of corruption and participation in a bribery scheme. He was subsequently acquitted by the Senate.