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House committee votes to impeach DHS secretary

Alejandro Mayorkas is accused of high crimes and misdemeanors for botching border security


Chairman Mark Green, R-Tenn., left, and Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., of the House Homeland Security Committee Associated Press/Photo by J. Scott Applewhite

House committee votes to impeach DHS secretary

After nearly 15 hours of debate, a House committee voted early Wednesday morning to recommend the impeachment of a U.S. Cabinet secretary for the first time in nearly 150 years. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas faces impeachment on two charges of abandoning his responsibility to protect the U.S. southern border and lying about it to the public.

The last Cabinet-level official impeached by Congress was William Belknap, the war secretary under President Ulysses S. Grant, who was accused in the 1870s of accepting kickbacks for awarding trading contracts on U.S. military bases.

“We take the use of impeachment extremely seriously,” committee Chairman Mark Green, R-Tenn., said at the hearing. “If your refusal to obey the law leads to the death of your fellow Americans, you no longer deserve to keep your job.”

The committee’s 18-15 vote on two counts of impeachment sets the stage for a House vote. The articles of impeachment will need nearly unanimous support from Republicans to pass in the divided chamber.

Republicans first attempted to impeach Mayorkas in November when Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., introduced a motion to remove him from his post. After the House voted to dismiss the motion, Greene reintroduced her resolution less than a month later—this time with a promise from Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., to refer the issue to committee.

The challenge to Mayorkas’s job has become a lightning rod in the immigration debate. Republicans demand stronger action on the border, while Democrats have denounced what they see as a political stunt in the lead up to an election year that doesn’t help address the realities of the border.

The first article of impeachment contends that Mayorkas’ use of policies such as mass parole for asylum-seekers awaiting processing of their claims have allowed thousands of illegal immigrants to walk free inside the United States. Greene, the author of the charges, contends practices like that go against the mandate of the 1952 Immigration and Nationality Act.

“[Mayorkas] has implemented a catch-and-release scheme, whereby such aliens are unlawfully released, even without an effective mechanism to ensure appearances before the immigration courts for removal proceedings or to ensure removal in the case of aliens ordered removed,” the charges state.

In the second count, Republicans accuse Mayorkas of breaching the public trust by repeatedly lying to the public by claiming, under oath, that the border is “secure.” In Greene’s view, that’s simply not true and merits a charge all on its own. If the full House votes to adopt the articles of impeachment, then Mayorkas will face a trial in the Senate. He can be removed from office if convicted.

In the past year, U.S. Customs and Border Protection has encountered 2,475,000 migrants trying to enter the country without prior approval, either by illegally crossing the border between ports of entry or surrendering to authorities at a legal border crossing. CBP has also seized 121,000 pounds of methamphetamine, 26,700 thousand pounds of fentanyl, and 1,100 firearms. According to Homeland Security Committee Chairman Green, people who are on the U.S. terrorist watch list have been caught crossing the southern border.

Responding to the allegations against the secretary, Democrats have dismissed the claims as an exaggeration at best and a fabrication at worst. Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, the ranking Democrat on the Homeland Security Committee, told me he thinks Mayorkas is simply working within the limits of a deficient system.

“Without resources, changing the policies doesn’t change where you’re trying to do. You see what I’m saying?” Thompson said. “If we need more administrative law judges to accommodate more people that are coming in through the asylum process, catch and release is what happens. We need the manpower, resources, and other things to address the numbers that are coming.”

Democrats also responded that unless the United States incarcerates or otherwise detains all migrants looking for asylum, someone has to decide which immigrants to detain. Some will wait behind bars, and others won’t. Rep. Seth Magaziner, R-R.I., pointed out that the Trump administration used similar policies to comparable degrees.

Rep. Nick LaLota, R-N.Y., serves on the Homeland Security Committee and said he thinks Americans, even in battleground states like New York, will appreciate the GOP’s effort to secure a stronger border.

“We campaigned on accountability. And we proved we were serious about that. We even fought our own party to hold George Santos accountable,” LaLota said, referencing the recent expulsion of a New York Republican from the House. “So with that credibility in mind, we come to this fight with the knowledge, the awareness, the confidence that our voters know we approach issues like this quite seriously. We will put the people’s business first.”

When asked, LaLota noted he had not been pressured into his vote by other Republicans.

“I feel it’s my duty,” LaLota said. “I have been for impeachment for months and I wasn’t pressured to get there. I know that to have a more secure border we at least need a new homeland security secretary and maybe a new president too.”


Leo Briceno

Leo is a WORLD politics reporter based in Washington, D.C. He’s a graduate of the World Journalism Institute and has a degree in political journalism from Patrick Henry College.

@_LeoBriceno


This keeps me from having to slog through digital miles of other news sites. —Nick

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