House Republicans announced two articles of impeachment against Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Sunday, accusing him of “willful and systemic refusal to comply with the law” and breach of the public trust.
The charges come as Republicans swiftly concluded two public impeachment hearings this month without Mayorkas’s in-person testimony or testimony from any fact witnesses. Although the Biden administration has been struggling with the overwhelming surge of migrants at the southern border, congressional lawmakers have yet to detail clear evidence of high crimes and misdemeanors on the part of leaders.
Republicans argue in the first article that Mayorkas has failed to enforce U.S. immigration policies at the nation’s border, has disregarded laws passed by Congress and has ignored court orders, allowing for a surge of migration at the southern border that has resulted in record highs of illegal crossings in recent months.
“Congress has a duty to see that the executive branch implements and enforces the laws we have passed,” Rep. Mark Green (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security, said in a statement. “Yet Secretary Mayorkas has repeatedly refused to do so.”
Constitutional experts and Democrats have argued that Republicans are abusing a tool adopted by the framers of the Constitution to protect the country from despotic leadership to instead address a policy dispute. Two law professors who testified before the committee this month both stated that they did not see a constitutional basis for impeachment.
“This markup is just more of the same political games from House Homeland Security Committee Republicans,” a Homeland Security official said in response to the articles of impeachment. “They don’t want to fix the problem; they want to campaign on it. That’s why they have undermined efforts to achieve bipartisan solutions and ignored the facts, legal scholars and experts, and even the Constitution itself in their quest to baselessly impeach Secretary Mayorkas.”
The second charge, breach of the public trust, accuses Mayorkas of making false statements and obstructing oversight of the Department of Homeland Security. After little public action in the probe for several months, the Homeland Security Committee’s investigation came to a head this month after Green invited Mayorkas to testify at the committee’s second impeachment hearing. Mayorkas responded that he had a scheduling conflict and offered to testify on another date, but Green declined the offer and moved forward with the hearing. It was held on a day Mayorkas was preparing to host a delegation of Mexican officials to discuss migration issues at the U.S.-Mexico border and also was spotted in the other side of the Capitol, negotiating with the Senate on a border security deal.
Shortly thereafter, Green issued a letter outlining 31 requests to the department that remained “partially or entirely unsatisfied,” signaling an obstruction charge to come.
Homeland Security officials have noted that Mayorkas has already testified before Congress more than any other Cabinet member — 27 times in 35 months — and that the department has provided 90 witnesses for committee hearings since the start of the Biden administration, along with over 13,000 pages of documents and data in response to Green’s requests alone.
Mayorkas appeared before the Homeland Security Committee in November. But threats to impeach him have loomed since House Republicans assumed the majority, serving as a rallying cry for hard-line lawmakers like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), who has made repeated efforts to force an impeachment vote.
If the House impeaches Mayorkas — which would be the first such action against a Cabinet member in almost 150 years — he is unlikely to be convicted in a trial in the Senate.
Still, the political pressure on the Biden administration to address immigration has been growing. Last month 249,785 illegal crossings were recorded along the U.S.-Mexico border, the highest monthly total ever, and Biden officials acknowledge the majority of the migrants were released into the United States with pending claims for protection.
The latest influx has worsened strains on New York, Chicago, Denver and other cities whose Democratic mayors are pleading for more federal aid to shelter and assist the newcomers, including the thousands of migrants sent by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R).
The House markup of the articles of impeachment on Tuesday against Mayorkas also could coincide with the release of legislative text of a bipartisan Senate border security deal. (Senators, who worked closely with Mayorkas during negotiations, said they hope to release the text of a deal this week.) President Biden praised the deal on Friday and said he’d employ new emergency powers to “shut down the border when it becomes overwhelmed” if the Senate passes the bipartisan plan.
House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) issued a letter Friday threatening to sink the deal and said he would hold a vote on impeaching Mayorkas “as soon as possible,” amid mounting pressure to appease hard-line Republicans who have already started to discuss the potential of ousting Johnson from the speakership. During President Donald Trump’s second impeachment in 2019, Johnson repeatedly warned of the dangers of a single-party impeachment and said that the founders designed for impeachment to be an “exceedingly rare event.”
Nick Miroff contributed to this report.
A previous version of this article stated that two law professors who testified before the committee said they did see a constitutional basis for impeachment. The law professors testified that they did not see a constitutional basis for impeachment. The article has been corrected.