Updated Jan 10, 2024 - Politics & Policy

House GOP holds first Mayorkas impeachment hearing over border crisis

Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas

U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas holds a press conference at a U.S. Border Patrol station on Jan. 8 in Eagle Pass, Texas. Photo: John Moore/Getty Images

House Republicans launched an effort Wednesday to make Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas the first Cabinet secretary to be impeached in nearly 150 years.

Why it matters: The first committee hearing in the impeachment push took place as Republicans are seeking to leverage their border-security demands to hold up military aid for Ukraine, possibly shut down the government and blame President Biden for the crisis at the southern border.

Driving the news: Lawmakers heard from the attorneys general of Montana, Oklahoma and Missouri at Wednesday's hearing.

  • The attorneys general told stories of drug overdose and addiction as well as crimes committed by foreign nationals, claiming the instances as evidence that the border crisis have put people in their states in danger.

What they're saying: "I wish we were not sitting here today. I wish these proceedings were not necessary. I wish our Southwest border was secure," Homeland Committee Chairman Mark Green (R-Tenn.) said in his opening statement.

  • "I wish that our government was enforcing the laws passed by Congress and doing its job to keep the American people safe. Unfortunately, Secretary Mayorkas has done none of those things."

Democrats on the committee repeatedly argued that the accusations levied against Mayorkas did not rise to the "high crimes and misdemeanors" standard that the Constitution outlines for impeachment.

  • "You cannot impeach a cabinet secretary because you don't like the president's policies," said Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), the committee's ranking member.

The big picture: The new impeachment proceedings have been brewing for years, moving from a fringe idea that the most conservative members of the party wanted to the mainstream.

  • Republicans on the committee have accused Mayorkas of "dereliction of duty" in securing the southern border. The term has no legal application to Cabinet members, and one of their first reports cites a definition from the Manual for Courts-Martial.
  • They have blamed Mayorkas, a well as the Biden administration's policies, for the unprecedented surge in migration at the U.S.-Mexico border in recent years, which has strained federal, state and local resources.
  • They have also zeroed in on the deadly increase in fentanyl trafficking, which is most often achieved through legal ports of entry.
  • In November, the House blocked an impeachment resolution targeting Mayorkas, which was led by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) But Greene's effort helped build pressure for the committee to move faster on the issue.

The other side: Democrats have said Republicans are only using the border issue and impeachment push for political gain.

  • They accuse the GOP of hypocrisy — raising alarm about an overwhelmed border system, while rejecting immigration agencies' urgent requests for additional funds and system reforms.
  • "Republicans are trying to abuse their power and the Constitution to convert what is simply a disagreement into somehow, some way a high crime and misdemeanor," Rep. Dan Goldman (D-N.Y.) told reporters Tuesday evening.
  • "It's not even clear at all what the crime is that they're alleging," he added.

Editor's note: This story was updated with information from the hearing.

Go deeper: House Republican push to impeach Mayorkas meets chilly Senate GOP reception

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