U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas holds a press conference at a U.S. Border Patrol station on Jan. 8, 2024 in Eagle Pass, Texas. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON — The U.S. House Homeland Security Committee is gearing up for only the second impeachment in U.S. history of a Cabinet member.
The Republican-led committee on Tuesday will mark up articles of impeachment against Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, for what Democrats say is no more than a difference in immigration policy between the two parties.
House Republicans Sunday released the text of two articles of impeachment for “high crimes and misdemeanors” allegedly committed by Mayorkas, which they will mark up and vote on as a substitute amendment to H. Res. 863, first introduced by Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene last year.
The first article accuses Mayorkas of a “willful and systemic refusal to comply with the law” in terms of “immigration and border security.”
The second article cites a “breach of public trust.” It says that Mayorkas has stated in his testimony to Congress that the U.S. Southern border is “secure.” Republicans disagree, and they argue that other statements made by Mayorkas are false.
Only one Cabinet member in U.S. history has been impeached, William W. Belknap, in 1876 for corruption. The former Iowa state legislator was charged with five articles of impeachment for “criminally disregarding his duty as Secretary of War and basely prostituting his high office to his lust for private gain.” Although the House voted articles of impeachment against him, he was tried and acquitted by the Senate.
The move to impeach Mayorkas comes as immigration remains a major focus for Congress, with the Senate finalizing the details of a bipartisan immigration deal to manage the U.S.-Mexico border. However, House Speaker Mike Johnson of Louisiana has not indicated that he would bring that piece of legislation to the floor if the Senate passes it.
The current GOP front-runner, Donald Trump, has also lobbied congressional Republicans to reject the bipartisan deal, though negotiators so far have resisted that demand.
Text on the bipartisan agreement in the Senate is expected this week, according to lead negotiators.
The White House and congressional Democrats have slammed House Republicans for moving forward with impeachment, calling the move “political games.”
“Beyond being an illegitimate exercise unworthy of the job Members of Congress were actually sent to Washington to do, the (Committee on Homeland Security) Republicans’ impeachment effort is baseless,” a DHS spokesperson said.
The White House has also argued that President Joe Biden is ready to make concessions on U.S. border policy. Hard-line immigration policies being finalized as part of the bipartisan Senate deal would make changes to asylum law and curb his administration’s use of parole authority used to grant temporary protections to migrants.
“What’s been negotiated would – if passed into law – be the toughest and fairest set of reforms to secure the border we’ve ever had in our country,” Biden said in a statement Friday. “It would give me, as President, a new emergency authority to shut down the border when it becomes overwhelmed. And if given that authority, I would use it the day I sign the bill into law.”
House Republicans also accuse Mayorkas in their articles of impeachment of abusing his parole authority by granting it to migrants at the U.S. border as well as creating parole for certain nationals such as Afghans, Ukrainians, Cubans, Haitians and Venezuelans, among others.
Parole authority has existed since the 1950s.
Homeland Security Chair Mark Green of Tennessee held several hearings about impeachment proceeding for Mayorkas. In one hearing, Green had state attorneys general from Montana, Oklahoma and Missouri appear as witnesses. They argued that Mayorkas failed to fulfill his oath of office, often citing the high number of migrants claiming asylum at the Southern border, and therefore should be impeached.
The top Democrat on the committee, Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, said in a statement that the articles of impeachment were a “sham.”
“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,” he said. “They are abusing Congress’ impeachment power to appease their MAGA members, score political points, and deflect Americans’ attention from their do-nothing Congress.”
Green held another hearing in which the witnesses included two mothers who said the Biden administration’s immigration policies played a role in their daughters’ deaths.
The push to oust Mayorkas has been spearheaded by Georgia Rep. Greene. Since Greene came to Congress in 2021, she’s introduced articles of impeachment for Biden, Mayorkas, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, FBI Director Christopher Wray and Attorney General for the District of Columbia Matthew M. Graves.
The Constitution gives Congress the authority to remove the president, vice president and federal civil officers “for treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”
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