WASHINGTON — House Republicans announced two articles of impeachment against Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas Sunday, accusing him of failing to do his job by allowing thousands of asylum seekers to enter the country amid record-breaking illegal crossings.
The articles accuse Mayorkas of willful and systemic refusal to comply with the law and breach of public trust.
The House Homeland Security Committee is expected to approve the charges at a Tuesday hearing and House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) vowed Friday to hold a floor vote “as soon as possible.”
Mayorkas, 64, would be the second Cabinet secretary in US history to be impeached — and first since Secretary of War William Belknap in 1876.
The first article says Mayorkas chose not to enforce the law, specifically a requirement that asylum seekers who illegally cross the border “shall be detained” until there is a decision on their status — with release into the US interior only allowed on a case-by-case basis.
Mayorkas said this month that 85% of migrants who illegally enter the US are being released to await decisions. That figure is in addition to a separate program created last year that allows 30,000 asylum seekers per month from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela to enter the country through legal ports of entry to await case decisions.
The second article of impeachment accuses Mayorkas of lying to Congress about the border being “secure” and failing to comply with document requests.
Mayorkas, who served in high-ranking DHS positions during former President Barack Obama’s eight years in office, will face a Senate trial if he’s impeached by the House — casting an election-year spotlight on the border debate.
The embattled secretary’s department revealed late Friday that December set a fresh record for illegal crossings — with data showing 302,000 people were apprehended along the US-Mexico border that month.
House Homeland Security Chairman Mark Green (R-Tenn.) said that the data “serve as more undeniable proof that Secretary Mayorkas must be impeached.”
“This secretary is utterly unfit for the office he holds,” Green said.
“He has neglected to fulfill his oath to secure the homeland and to comply with the laws of the United States.”
“This secretary has intentionally opened our borders, sending a clear message worldwide: entering this country illegally means release into the interior, with little to no chance of removal — and the world has responded accordingly,” he continued.
Ahead of Tuesday’s markup, DHS released a scathing 4-page counter-memo accusing House Republicans of embarking on an “unconstitutional, evidence-free impeachment.”
“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 department said.
The memo argued that Mayorkas has enforced the laws at the border, noting that a majority of migrants encountered at the border “have been removed,” that the department has seized more fentanyl and made more arrests for fentanyl-related offenses ” in the last two years than in the previous five years combined,” and claimed that the secretary has “provided historic levels of access and responsiveness” to the committee.
The department also vehemently rejected the allegations that Mayorkas lied to Congress, pointing to Rep. Tom McClintock’s (R-Calif.) assertion in November that gauging operational control at the border is a “matter of opinion.”
“Mayorkas has repeatedly and consistently testified regarding operational control and the statutory definition of the term, which no administration has ever met, compared to the department’s use of the term. There is no basis to accuse him of lying,” DHS countered.
Moreover, the department contended that the impeachment outcome had been “predetermined from the start,” mired by a “cynical and hypocritical process,” and lacked evidence of high crimes and misdemeanors.
“They decided to impeach the Secretary before even starting their so-called ‘investigation.’ Just ask Chairman Mark Green, who was caught on tape fundraising off plans to impeach the Secretary last spring, or Marjorie Taylor Greene,” DHS argued.
Democrats have sought to redirect the debate by pointing to bipartisan Senate negotiations that could result in new proposed limits on the number of asylum seekers allowed to enter the US — noting that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has alleged that former President Donald Trump is trying to scuttle a deal to keep the issue in focus ahead of his expected November rematch with Biden.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre added Friday that the White House viwed the impeachment push as “shameful” and “wasteful” of time.
The border surge began in 2021, as Biden took office vowing a more welcoming approach to migrants.
Shortly after his swearing-in, the now-81-year-old ended construction of Trump’s US-Mexico border wall and scrapped his predecessor’s “Remain in Mexico” policy, which required most asylum applicants to wait south of the border as US officials decided on their claims of persecution.
Under Biden, many migrants choose to turn themselves in to authorities to get processing paperwork that entitles them to work permits following an initial wait period.
The influx has caused tension between Biden and Democratic big-city mayors, including Eric Adams of New York, whose relationship with Biden has soured as Adams blasted the feds for leaving the city government to finance housing and services for thousands of migrants, forcing local budget cuts.
Nearly 2.5 million people were apprehended after illegally crossing the US-Mexico border in fiscal year 2023, which ended Sept. 30, in addition to an estimated 670,000 “gotaways” who were able to evade arrests.
Fiscal year 2022 set the previous record of nearly 2.4 million detentions — up from 1.7 million in fiscal 2021.