Jan 28, 2024 - Politics & Policy

House Republicans release articles of impeachment against Mayorkas

U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas holds a press conference at a U.S. Border Patrol station

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

House Republicans unveiled articles of impeachment against Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Sunday morning, blaming him for the surge in illegal border crossings and fentanyl trafficking.

Why it matters: Republicans are barreling toward impeachment over the logistical and humanitarian crisis at the border even as they balk at passing new, stringent policies that President Biden has promised to use to "shut down the border."

  • The House Homeland Security committee will consider the impeachment articles Tuesday morning, and Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) has promised a floor vote "as soon as possible" after that.
  • Democrats and legal experts have criticized the effort, saying Republicans have failed to show that Mayorkas has committed any high crimes and misdemeanors — the constitutional standard for impeachment.

The details: The articles present a series of well-worn arguments against Mayorkas.

  • They assert Mayorkas "willfully and systemically refused to comply" with immigration laws by releasing migrants and asylum-seekers into the U.S. rather than detaining them, and for using a tool called parole to release large numbers of migrants from detention.
  • The U.S. has never had the resources to detain every migrant who illegally crosses the border until they can be removed.
  • The Trump administration also was forced to release migrants into the U.S., especially during the 2019 border crisis.

Zoom in: Mayorkas also is charged with breaching public trust by knowingly making false statements to Congress.

  • Republicans repeatedly have hammered Mayorkas for claiming to have operational control of the border, which has been defined in statute as zero illegal border crossings.
  • Mayorkas repeatedly has sought to clarify that he was not claiming to have met that definition — and that no administration has ever attained operation control by that standard.

What they're saying: "Secretary Mayorkas has also completely disregarded the separation of powers, a bedrock of our constitutional republic," Homeland Security chair Mark Green (R-Tenn.) said in a statement.

  • "His lawless behavior was exactly what the framers gave us the impeachment power to remedy," Green added.
  • "What is glaringly missing from these articles is any real charge or even a shred of evidence of high crimes or misdemeanors," ranking member Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) said in a statement.

What to watch: Embracing a new, tougher tone, Biden on Friday vowed to "shut down the border" if given new authorities in a bipartisan Senate package, which also includes military aid for Ukraine and Israel.

  • The deal would require the government to kick back anyone attempting to illegally cross the border once the daily average of migrant encounters reaches 5,000 over a week — and until that number declines and remains low for an extended period of time.
  • Early signs indicate the proposed policy may not be harsh enough for conservatives in the House especially as former President Trump campaigns against it.
  • Speaker Johnson has insisted Biden "start by using the broad legal authority he already possesses" to crack down on illegal border crossings.
  • He blasted the pending Senate proposal, saying it still would allow too many illegal border crossings.

The bottom line: The unprecedented levels of migration from countries around the world to the U.S.-Mexico border continue to pose one of the greatest challenges for the Biden administration — as well a political vulnerability for 2024.

  • Republicans have made clear they want to campaign on the problems at the border, and have been reluctant to give Biden any legislative wins to address the crisis.
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