House Republicans unveiled their articles of impeachment to remove Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, formally kicking off a controversial process as Democrats and experts argue he has not committed any high crimes or misdemeanors to justify booting him from his post.
The resolution includes two articles, one that accuses Mayorkas of violating immigration laws through a host of different Biden administration policies, while a second article combines a host of the GOP’s most-contested arguments, accusing the secretary of falling short of his duties, misleading Congress, and obstructing their investigation.
The House Homeland Security Committee will mark up the resolution during a Tuesday meeting, while Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) has pledged to bring them to the House floor “as soon as possible.”
“These articles lay out a clear, compelling, and irrefutable case for Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas’ impeachment. He has willfully and systemically refused to comply with immigration laws enacted by Congress. He has breached the public trust by knowingly making false statements to Congress and the American people, and obstructing congressional oversight of his department,” Chair Mark Green (R-Tenn.) said in a statement.
“Congress has a duty to see that the executive branch implements and enforces the laws we have passed. Yet Secretary Mayorkas has repeatedly refused to do so. His lawless behavior was exactly what the Framers gave us the impeachment power to remedy.”
Mayorkas’s impeachment is both remarkable, and in some ways anticlimactic. The floor vote will be the second time in history that the House has considered removal of a Cabinet official, something not seen since the 1870s. But it’s likely to get little traction in the Democrat-led Senate, where a two-thirds vote would be needed to remove Mayorkas.
Democrats, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and even some conservatives see its significance as a GOP abuse of congressional power that caves to demands from its most far-right members, with Republicans seeking to impeach Mayorkas over policy differences that fall well short of the constitutional standard of high crimes and misdemeanors.
“This markup is just more of the same political games from House Homeland Security Committee (CHS) Republicans. 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,” DHS wrote in a memo in anticipation of the expected allegations of the impeachment articles.
“This farce of an impeachment is a distraction from other vital national security priorities and the work Congress should be doing to actually fix our broken immigration laws.”
The articles considered Tuesday are an amendment to a resolution first offered by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.).
The first article targets what the committee calls defiance of U.S. immigration law, arguing Mayorkas has failed to detain a sufficient number of migrants as required in the code. It’s a claim that comes both as the Biden administration has tried to limit the use of dentition and amid the reality that the country simply does not have enough beds to detain everyone who crosses the border.
The U.S. has never detained every migrant that crosses the border, but the GOP argues new programs that allow for migrants to be “paroled” into the country, a mechanism to allow entry to those who do not otherwise meet immigration standards, should be allowed only on a more limited basis.
Among those abuses, Greene’s team pointed to the Uniting for Ukraine program, which allowed those fleeing the war torn country to enter the U.S. for two years. It also pointed to a parole program offering a similar status to those seeking to enter from Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela – a program Democrats have argued Republicans should support given their criticism of the socialist dictators leading each.
The section also uses DHS statistics to suggest ineffectiveness, noting the amount of fentanyl border officials have seized each year as well as figures for those on the terrorist watch list who were caught attempting to enter the country.
DHS noted in its memo that “Congress has never provided the funding for detaining every individual who crosses illegally.”
“As has been the case for several Administrations now, DHS adheres to the mandatory detention requirements of the INA to the maximum extent possible, including by detaining those who pose a threat to public safety or national security. No administration has ever been able to detain every individual who crosses illegally,” the department added.
And it also defended its parole programs, noting that those for “defined groups have been used and accepted as lawful for decades.”
In an op-ed earlier this month, conservative commentator and legal expert Jonathan Turley criticized the GOP for basing much of their argument on policy differences he said fall far short of the bar for impeachment.
“The courts have long recognized that presidents are allowed to establish priorities in the enforcement of federal laws, even when those priorities tend to lower enforcement for certain groups or areas. It is a matter of discretion,” Turley wrote.
“Voters will soon have an opportunity to render a judgment on those policies in the election. Mayorkas has carried out those policies. What has not been shown is conduct by the secretary that could be viewed as criminal or impeachable.”
Democrats made a similar argument Sunday after viewing the articles.
“What is glaringly missing from these articles is any real charge or even a shred of evidence of high crimes or misdemeanors – the Constitutional standard for impeachment. …They are abusing Congress’ impeachment power to appease their MAGA members, score political points, and deflect Americans’ attention from their do-nothing Congress,” Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) said in a statement.
“Republicans don’t actually want to work towards bipartisan solutions to fix the border – in fact, they have repeatedly sabotaged the Secretary’s efforts to secure the border and denied DHS’ funding requests. Secretary Mayorkas is upholding the law and honoring the public trust as he has throughout his more than 30 years of service to our Nation. The House must reject this sham resolution.”
The second article is a grab bag of GOP arguments pushing for Mayorkas’ ouster, saying he has committed “breach of public trust” by violating his oath of office and failing to faithfully discharge his duty – a slight shift from earlier arguments relying heavily on military terminology in saying the secretary was derelict in his duty.
To back their argument, the GOP points to a number of Trump-era laws the Biden administration did not retain.
Republicans have argued the framers, who crafted impeachment processes well ahead of the establishment of the criminal code, did not expect the process to be used only for named crimes, but rather to address those who do not follow the law or abuse their authority.
Legal experts have previously been critical of the GOP’s dereliction of duty arguments, saying the “quasi-official” sounding phrase falls short of laying out an impeachable offense.
Sunday’s articles similarly claim Mayorkas has misled Congress – an argument that primarily rests on his response to questions about whether the border is operationally secure.
During appearances before Congress, Republicans repeatedly grilled Mayorkas about whether the border was operationally secure under the definition set by the Secure Fence Act. That law creates a standard of perfection which has never been met, defining the status as one in which not a single person or piece of contraband improperly crosses the border.
Mayorkas has said one must view the law with a “layer of reasonableness,” saying he sees the law as requiring the secretary to maximize the resources they have to make the border as secure as possible, asserting to lawmakers he believes he is complying with the law.
“I do, and congressman, I think the secretary of Homeland Security would have said the same thing in 2020 and 2019,” Mayorkas said in a 2022 exchange.
And in a July hearing, Mayorkas said: “With respect to the definition of operational control, I do not use the definition that appears in the Secure Fence Act. And the Secure Fence Act provides statutorily that operational control is defined as preventing all unlawful entries into the United States. By that definition, no administration has ever had operational control.”
Republicans have also accused Mayorkas of failing to comply with their subpoenas. However, DHS is supplying documents on a rolling basis to both. One of the subpoenas dealing with the Afghanistan evacuation requires a production of more than 1 million records.
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