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House committee kicks off Mayorkas impeachment effort

Citing the impact of the administration's border policies, GOP panel members railed against the performance of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas

Rep. Mark E. Green, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said Wednesday the U.S. is in the midst of an unprecedented crisis at the southern border.
Rep. Mark E. Green, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said Wednesday the U.S. is in the midst of an unprecedented crisis at the southern border. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Republicans on the House Homeland Security Committee on Wednesday took the first official step toward an impeachment of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. 

The committee heard testimony from three state attorneys general and a constitutional law professor in an effort to build a case for removing Mayorkas from office. Republicans argued that Mayorkas willfully neglected his duties amid historically high migration at the U.S.-Mexico border that has strained government resources and called into question the Biden administration’s immigration policies. 

The hearing comes after the committee’s yearlong, five-part investigation into the border situation, focusing on Mayorkas’ alleged misuse of taxpayer resources, failure to carry out immigration laws and efforts to mislead Congress. 

Wednesday’s proceedings began with a short video illustrating the influx of migrants into border regions. U.S. Customs and Border Protection logged 2.48 million encounters with migrants at the border in fiscal 2023, which ended Sept. 30 — an agency record. 

“These historic numbers, the chaos you just saw on the screen, are the result of a much deeper problem,” said Tennessee Republican Mark E. Green, the panel’s chairman. “And that problem is not instability in other countries. It’s not poverty. It’s not climate change. It’s not a supposedly broken immigration system. All of these excuses have long predated Secretary Mayorkas’s tenure and yet we’ve never experienced a crisis like this.” 

Republicans argue that Biden administration immigration policies, including a halt in border wall construction, rescission of the Trump-era “Remain in Mexico” program and limiting guidance for Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents are to blame for the record-high migration numbers. 

GOP lawmakers say Mayorkas’ embrace of those policies, as well as department efforts under his watch to allow in immigrants under programs like humanitarian parole, meet the standard for impeachment.

“Impeachable offenses are not limited to prosecutable crimes; rather, the framers of the Constitution understood, and the House of Representatives has consistently concluded, that the impeachment power reaches all manner of gross misconduct in office that does serious harm to the U.S. political system, the U.S. constitutional order, or the people of the country,” Green said. 

The attorneys general, from Missouri, Montana and Oklahoma, spoke at length about the consequences of strained resources at the border, focusing specifically on the flow of fentanyl into the U.S. and the corresponding opioid epidemic. 

“There’s no other word than ‘meteoric’ for the rise in fentanyl trafficking in Montana during the Biden administration,” said Austin Knudsen, the state’s attorney general.

The impeachment effort is unlikely to gain any backing from Democrats, who have long suggested that the Biden administration’s efforts to secure the border are limited by decades-old immigration laws not designed for current migration patterns and external factors in the largely Central American countries where migrants are traveling from. 

During the hearing, Democrats attempted to paint the Republican impeachment effort as a partisan project aimed at animating the party’s base in a contentious election year. 

“It is now campaign season and Republicans recently rolled out their impeachment proceedings against the secretary like the pre-planned, predetermined political stunt it is. This is not a legitimate impeachment,” said committee ranking member Bennie Thompson, D-Miss. “Republicans want to throw political red meat to their base and keep that campaign cash coming.”

Democrats also focused heavily on previous impeachments of former President Donald Trump, which Republicans largely did not support. 

“We have witnesses who, again, want to comment only on Mayorkas but don’t want to comment on President Trump,” said California Democrat Eric Swalwell. “I just see a party that does not does not want to fix, but only wants the fiction.”

The growing partisan rancor over immigration brought on by the impeachment proceedings could pose a challenge to a bipartisan Senate group attempting to forge an immigration policy deal. The lawmakers in the group have spent weeks negotiating, but there’s no sign of an imminent agreement. 

A border deal is needed to unlock a $110.5 billion emergency spending package that would funnel new aid to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan.

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