House Republicans release articles of impeachment against Mayorkas

Washington — House Republicans released two articles of impeachment against Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Sunday, formally unveiling the charges as they prepare to punish the secretary over the administration’s handling of the U.S.-Mexico border.

In a 20-page impeachment resolution, Republicans on the House Homeland Security Committee accused Mayorkas of “willful and systemic refusal to comply with the law” and a “breach of public trust.” The committee is set to meet on Tuesday to consider the articles.

Republicans have repeatedly accused Mayorkas of failing to enforce the nation’s laws as a record number of migrants arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border. Democrats and the Department of Homeland Security have criticized the impeachment effort as a “baseless” political attack, citing experts who have testified that Mayorkas’ conduct did not rise to the level of “high crimes and misdemeanors,” the legal basis for impeachment under the Constitution.

The department responded to the articles in a 4-page memo on Sunday, calling the impeachment effort “a distraction from other vital national security priorities and the work Congress should be doing to actually fix our broken immigration laws.”

“They don’t want to fix the problem; they want to campaign on it,” the DHS memo said. “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 Mayorkas impeachment articles

The first article — willful and systemic refusal to comply with the law — said hat Mayorkas “has repeatedly violated laws enacted by Congress regarding immigration and border security.”

“His refusal to obey the law is not only an offense against the separation of powers in the Constitution of the United States, it also threatens our national security and has had a dire impact on communities across the country,” the impeachment resolution said.

Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas responds to lawmakers' questions during a Senate subcommittee hearing on May 4, 2022.  / Credit: Amanda Andrade-Rhoades/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas responds to lawmakers’ questions during a Senate subcommittee hearing on May 4, 2022. / Credit: Amanda Andrade-Rhoades/The Washington Post via Getty Images

The resolution accused Mayorkas and the Biden administration of disregarding federal laws that mandate the detention of certain migrants, and overstepping their authority in using an authority known as parole to resettle more than 1 million migrants and refugees in the U.S.

In its memo, DHS said the department “adheres to the mandatory detention requirements of the [Immigration and Naturalization Act] to the maximum extent possible” and noted that Congress “has never provided the funding for detaining every individual who crosses illegally.”

The impeachment resolution cited a 2023 decision from the Supreme Court, which ruled that states lacked standing to ask the courts to compel the executive branch to enforce certain immigration laws. The justices noted that Congress has other remedies to compel the executive branch to act, such as impeachment, and House Republicans pointed to that ruling to justify the impeachment article.

“Here, in light of the inability of injured parties to seek judicial relief to remedy the refusal of Alejandro N. Mayorkas to comply with Federal immigration laws, impeachment is Congress’s only viable option,” the first article said.

The second article, breach of public trust, accused Mayorkas of “knowingly making false statements to Congress and the American people and avoiding lawful oversight in order to obscure the devastating consequences of his willful and systemic refusal to comply with the law and carry out his statutory duties.”

Mayorkas, the article said, told Congress “that the border is ‘secure’, that the border is ‘no less secure than it was previously’, that the border is ‘closed’, and that DHS has ‘operational control’ of the border,” among other comments.

The department said that “[t]here is no basis to accuse [Mayorkas] of lying to Congress,” pointing to distinctions between the statutory definition of “operational control” of the border and how the department uses the term internally. The DHS memo cited the head of Border Patrol, who last year said: “I’ve been doing this job for 32 years. We’ve never had operational control.”

The impeachment push

The move on Sunday came after House Speaker Mike Johnson said on Friday that the House would vote on whether to impeach Mayorkas “as soon as possible” after the committee advances the articles.

Johnson argued in a letter to colleagues that Mayorkas has “willfully ignored and actively undermined our nation’s immigration laws,” saying that the House Homeland Security Committee would advance articles of impeachment against Mayorkas when lawmakers return to Washington this week.

“[T]he House Homeland Security Committee will move forward with Articles of Impeachment against Secretary Mayorkas,” Johnson wrote. “A vote on the floor will be held as soon as possible thereafter.”

Committee Democrats pushed back on the move to release impeachment articles on Sunday, saying evidence of high crimes and misdemeanors is “glaringly missing.”

“That should come as no surprise because Republicans’ so-called ‘investigation’ of Secretary Mayorkas has been a remarkably fact-free affair,” Rep. Bennie Thompson, the top Democrats on the Homeland Security Committee, said in a statement. “They are abusing Congress’ impeachment power to appease their MAGA members, score political points, and deflect Americans’ attention from their do-nothing Congress.”

Even if the GOP-controlled House impeaches Mayorkas, it’s highly unlikely that he would be convicted in a trial in the Senate, which has a Democratic majority and would require a vote of two-thirds of senators to remove him from office. But Mayorkas would be the first Cabinet official to be impeached since 1876.

Camilo Montoya-Galvez contributed reporting.

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