Associated Press

House Republicans headed for vote on impeachment of Biden homeland-security secretary

Democrats argue that the Mayorkas impeachment push is purely political and that Republican policy and performance differences with the secretary do not signal his complicity in high crimes or misdemeanors

Rep. Mark Green, the Republican chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, and the committee’s ranking member, Democrat Bennie Thompson, speak during the Mayorkas impeachment hearing.

Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Republicans are preparing to take a key vote Tuesday toward impeaching Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas over what they call his “willful and systematic” refusal to enforce immigration laws as border security becomes a top 2024 election issue.

Context: Republicans in House and Senate taking strikingly divergent paths on southern border

The Homeland Security Committee is pushing through a day-long hearing on two articles of impeachment against Mayorkas, a rare charge against a Cabinet official unseen in nearly 150 years, as Republicans make GOP presidential frontrunner Donald Trump’s hardline deportation approach to immigration their own.

“The actions and decisions of Secretary Mayorkas have left us with no other option but to proceed with articles of impeachment,” said the committee’s chairman, Tennessee Republican Mark Green.

The articles of impeachment charge that Mayorkas “willfully and systematically refused to comply with Federal immigration laws” amid a record surge of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border and that he has “breached the public trust” in his claims to Congress that the border is secure.

A committee vote would send the articles to the full House for a vote as soon as next week.

“We cannot allow this man to remain in office any longer,” Green said.

With an unusual personal appeal Mayorkas wrote in a letter to the committee that it should be working with the Biden administration to update the nation’s “broken and outdated” immigration laws for the 21st century and an era of record global migration.

“We need a legislative solution and only Congress can provide it,” Mayorkas wrote in the pointed letter to the panel’s chairman.

Mayorkas never testified on his own behalf during the rushed impeachment proceedings — he and the committee couldn’t agree on a date — but drew on his own background as a child brought to the U.S. by his parents fleeing Cuba and on his career spent prosecuting criminals. “Your false accusations do not rattle me and do not divert me” from public service, he wrote.

Green, the Republican committee chair, disparaged Mayorkas’s letter as an “11th-hour response” to the committee that was “inadequate and unbecoming of a Cabinet secretary.”

From the archives (November 2023): House shelves impeachment of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas for border policies

Rarely has a cabinet member faced impeachment’s bar of “high crimes and misdemeanors” and Democrats on the panel called the proceedings a stunt and a sham that could set a chilling precedent for other civil servants snared in policy disputes by lawmakers who disagree with the president’s approach.

“This is a terrible day for the committee, the United States, the Constitution and our great country,” said Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, the committee’s ranking Democrat.

Referring to Trump’s campaign slogan, Thompson said the “MAGA-led impeachment of Secretary Mayorkas is a baseless sham.”

The House’s proceedings against Mayorkas have created an oddly split-screen Capitol Hill, as the Senate works intently with the secretary on a bipartisan border-security package that is now on life support.

The package being negotiated by the senators with Mayorkas could emerge as the most consequential bipartisan immigration proposal in a decade. Or it could collapse in political failure as Republicans, and some Democrats, run from the effort.

Trump, on the campaign trail and in private talks, has tried to squelch the deal.

President Joe Biden, in his own campaign remarks in South Carolina, said if Congress sends him a bill with emergency authority he’ll “shut down the border right now” to get migration under control.

“I’ve done all I can do,” Biden told reporters Tuesday before departing for a campaign-related trip to Florida. “Give me the power” through legislation, which he said is something he’s asked “from the very day I got in office.”

The Republicans are focused on the secretary’s handling of the southern border, which has experienced a increasing number of migrants over the past year, many seeking asylum in the U.S., at a time when drug cartels are using the border with Mexico to traffic people and ship deadly fentanyl into the states.

Republicans contend that the Biden administration and Mayorkas either got rid of policies in place under Trump that had controlled migration or enacted policies of their own that encouraged migrants from around the world to come to the U.S. illegally via the southern border.

They also accused Mayorkas of lying to Congress, pointing to comments about the border being secure or about vetting of Afghans airlifted to the U.S. after military withdrawal from their country.

“It’s high time” for impeachment, said Rep. Michael McCaul, a Texas Republican and the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, who called Mayorkas the “architect” of the border problems. “He has what’s coming to him.”

The House impeachment hearings against Mayorkas sprinted ahead in January while the Republicans’ separate impeachment inquiry into Biden over the business dealings over his son Hunter Biden dragged.

Democrats argue that Mayorkas is acting under his legal authorities at the department and that the criticisms against him do not rise to the level of impeachment.

House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries of New York called the proceedings a “political stunt” ordered up by Trump and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a close Trump ally from Georgia, who pushed the resolution forward toward the votes.

During the hearing, Rep. Robert Garcia, a Democrat from California, pointed to Trump’s comments echoing Adolf Hitler that immigrants are “poisoning the blood” of the U.S. and to his proposals for militarizing the border as extreme, arguing the impeachment proceedings were “all about trying to get Donald Trump re-elected.”

It’s unclear if House Republicans will have the support from their ranks to go through with the impeachment after a committee vote, especially with their slim majority and with Democrats expected to vote against it.

Last year, eight House Republicans voted to shelve the impeachment resolution proposed by Greene rather than send it along to the committee, though many of them have since signaled they would be open to it.

See: Biden urges Congress to pass border bill as House speaker suggests it may be ‘dead on arrival’

Also: Biden brings congressional leaders to White House at pivotal time for Ukraine aid and U.S. border deal

If the House does agree to impeach Mayorkas, the charges would next to go the Senate for a trial. In 1876, the House impeached Defense Secretary William Belknap over kickbacks in government contracts, but the Senate acquitted him in a trial.

From the archives:

Boebert wants to impeach Biden. So does Greene, but differently. McCarthy has other plans.

‘He’s being squeezed’: McCarthy yields to right-flank insistence on Biden impeachment inquiry amid intensifying threat to speakership

House Republicans push for Biden’s impeachment — and, at the same time, Trump’s un-impeachment

Republican efforts to impeach Fani Willis or defund her Trump prosecution are ‘political theater,’ Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp says