House Republicans Push Ahead to Impeach Alejandro Mayorkas

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House Republicans are moving forward with plans to hold an impeachment hearing against Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas amid a recent surge in migrant crossings at the southern border.

Wednesday’s impeachment hearing is expected to set the stage for a contentious battle over immigration policy in the presidential election year, as Republicans seek to capitalize on the border crisis and hold the Biden Administration accountable for what they perceive as a failure in managing migrant crossings and enforcing immigration laws. If Republicans succeed, Mayorkas would be the first Cabinet secretary to be impeached in nearly 150 years.

But Mayorkas’ fate is far from certain, given that Republicans will require near-total unity to pass an impeachment measure on the House floor. Some key swing-district Republicans have expressed newfound openness to the idea, framing the head of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as the focal point of border issues and a potential liability for the Biden Administration. Other moderate Republicans remain skeptical about setting a dangerous precedent. “We’re using impeachment in the last five, six years in a way that’s inappropriate and it demeans the integrity of the House,” retiring GOP Rep. Ken Buck of Colorado told CNN in November. “I disagree strongly with how he’s handling the border…but it’s not a high crime or misdemeanor, it’s not treason, it’s not bribery, it’s not the crimes that our founders set forth in the Constitution.”

The impeachment hearing on Wednesday will be held by the House Homeland Security Committee instead of the House Judiciary Committee, which usually handles impeachment inquiries but is currently tied up with its impeachment investigation into President Joe Biden. During the hearing, House Republicans are expected to provide a summary of their findings from a monthslong investigation into problems at the southern border, featuring testimony from several attorneys general over the repercussions of the ongoing migrant crisis in their states.

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Republicans have long voiced their intentions to pursue the impeachment of Mayorkas, especially as the Biden Administration grappled with the termination of a controversial Trump-era policy that restricted many migrants from filing asylum claims. The hearing comes as border crossings have reached a record high, with more than 2.4 million apprehensions in the 2023 fiscal year, according to government data released in October.

Rep. Mark Green, the Republican chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said at a news conference in front of the Rio Grande last week that Mayorkas encouraged illegal immigration through permissive policies. “The greatest domestic threat to the national security and the safety of the American people is Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas,” Green said.

Green accused Mayorkas of failing to enforce existing immigration laws and lying to Congress, deeming it a violation of his oath to uphold the Constitution. Democrats, on the other hand, argue that Republicans are attempting to impeach Mayorkas over political disagreements, emphasizing that policy disputes do not constitute high crimes and misdemeanors and that Mayorkas has not broken any laws.

The Department of Homeland Security, in a statement, highlighted its efforts in removing 1.4 million individuals encountered at the border in fiscal year 2022, the highest in any previous year. They also noted increased efforts in stopping the flow of fentanyl and arresting individuals involved in fentanyl-related crimes. “The House majority is wasting valuable time and taxpayer dollars pursuing a baseless political exercise that has been rejected by members of both parties and already failed on a bipartisan vote,” Mia Ehrenberg, a spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security, said in a statement to TIME. Eight Republicans in November blocked an immediate impeachment vote against Mayorkas by supporting a motion to refer the resolution to the Homeland Security Committee. “There is no valid basis to impeach Secretary Mayorkas, as senior members of the House majority have attested, and this extreme impeachment push is a harmful distraction from our critical national security priorities.”

Even if the House impeaches Mayorkas, he almost certainly wouldn’t be convicted in a trial in the Democratic-led Senate. But Democrats are still closely monitoring how Republicans discuss the potential impeachment of Mayorkas, particularly those who represent districts won by Biden. The House Democratic campaign arm, in a recent memo, highlighted how the pursuit of Mayorkas' impeachment endangers vulnerable members.

The Mayorkas impeachment battle highlights the growing significance of immigration as a central issue in the upcoming 2024 campaign. Republicans are banking on the border crisis to unify their party and rally support against Biden.

Despite the attention on immigration issues, Congress has not significantly updated or reformed immigration law in roughly three decades. But new immigration reform could be on the way. Lawmakers are currently discussing the White House's supplementary funding proposal, which includes allocations for the border, Ukraine, and Israel. Republicans in both the House and Senate have insisted that any financial support must come with restrictions on asylum and Biden’s parole program that allows migrants to resettle in the U.S. legally. The final terms of the agreement aren’t yet clear.

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