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National News

U.S. House committee advances impeachment of Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas to floor

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Ariana Figueroa, Georgia Recorder
January 31, 2024

WASHINGTON — The U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security early Wednesday voted 18-15 along party lines to send articles of impeachment against Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to the House floor. Republicans argue the charges are legitimate.

Members of the full House could vote as soon as next week to impeach Mayorkas, who is engaged with members of the Senate and the White House in finalizing a deal to overhaul immigration laws. Republicans, including the GOP front-runner in the race for the presidency, Donald Trump, have made clear immigration will be a central issue in the 2024 elections.

If the articles of impeachment are brought to the House floor for a vote and passed, it will be the first time in U.S. history that a Cabinet official is impeached due to what Democrats said are policy differences rather than alleged misconduct.

Even if the Republican House, with its slim majority, manages to impeach Mayorkas, the Democrat-controlled Senate will likely acquit him. This means, in the end, Mayorkas probably will not be removed from office.

“This is not about policy differences at all,” House Homeland Security Chair Mark Green, a Tennessee Republican, said in his opening statement at the committee markup. “This goes far deeper. Secretary Mayorkas has put his political preferences above following the law.”

Mayorkas sent a letter to Green Tuesday before the markup, defending his record, and pushed back on House Republicans’ claims that he has not enforced immigration law.

“We have provided Congress and your committee with hours of testimony, thousands of documents, hundreds of briefings, and much more information that demonstrates quite clearly how we are enforcing the law,” Mayorkas wrote.

After a more than 15-hour meeting that initially started Tuesday morning, the committee passed two articles of impeachment, accusing Mayorkas of “high crimes and misdemeanors.” It will be up to House Speaker Mike Johnson of Louisiana to call for a House vote.

Democrats submitted nine amendments, and none were adopted.

Two articles of impeachment

The first article of impeachment against Mayorkas is for a “willful and systemic refusal to comply with the law” by not following court orders or laws passed by Congress, with the result an unprecedented number of migrants at the southern border.

The second article of impeachment cites Mayorkas for a breach of public trust by making false statements and obstructing oversight efforts at DHS by the Office of Inspector General, the agency’s internal watchdog.

The top Democrat on the committee, Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, said that those two articles of impeachment do not reach the standards of “high crimes and misdemeanors.”

“In a process akin to throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing what sticks, Republicans have cooked up vague, unprecedented grounds to impeach Secretary Mayorkas,” Thompson said in his opening statement.

Articles of impeachment have also historically gone through the House Judiciary Committee, Thompson added.

Green held two hearings this month on impeachment proceedings without Mayorkas as a witness. In the most recent hearing, Mayorkas was invited but could not attend due to a scheduling conflict, as he was meeting with officials from Mexico about migration issues.

Officials at DHS have called the markup “political games,” and noted that Mayorkas has testified 27 times before Congress, “more than any other Cabinet member.”

Democrats lambasted the markup as a “sham” and argued that Republicans were moving forward with impeachment as a way to campaign on immigration.

Thompson said that Republicans should instead agree to pass the bipartisan deal that the Senate is working on. No bill text has been released of that deal, and Johnson has not publicly supported it, or indicated that he will bring it for a vote in the House.

Press conferences

Leading up to the markup, Republicans and Democrats held dueling press conferences Monday.

Democrats, including Thompson and Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, called the move to impeach Mayorkas “illegitimate,” and said that a Cabinet official cannot be impeached over policy differences.

Republicans, made up of mostly the Texas delegation, threw their support behind Texas GOP Gov. Greg Abbott, who is defying orders from the U.S. Supreme Court and the White House to remove razor wire fencing along the Texas-Mexico border.

Those Republicans repeatedly told Biden to leave the Lone Star State alone, and that they would move forward with impeaching Mayorkas.

“I think the voters are going to continue into November by calling this what it is. It is an invasion. It is the most egregious breach of our national security in the history of this country,” Texas GOP Rep. August Pfluger, who also sits on the House Homeland Security Committee, said.

GOP cites Supreme Court decision

Republicans focused on a recent Supreme Court decision, United States vs. Texas, to justify the move to impeach Mayorkas. In that case, Texas and Louisiana challenged new DHS immigration enforcement guidelines that prioritized the arrest and removal of certain noncitizens.

The conservative court voted 8-1 and found that the two states lacked standing. Republicans cite the lone dissent of that case from Justice Samuel Alito as part of their arguments for congressional authority to remove Mayorkas.

Alito said that “even though the federal courts lack Article III jurisdiction over this suit, other forums remain open for examining the Executive Branch’s enforcement policies. For example, Congress possesses an array of tools to analyze and influence those policies [and] those are political checks for the political process.”

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Rome, Georgia, along with other Republicans, argued that one of those tools is the ability to impeach and said that the Supreme Court decision “left the House of Representatives with little choice.”

“The only one (tool) that makes sense in the current political environment is impeachment,” Greene said.

Maryland’s Democratic Rep. Glenn Ivey said that tools that Congress possesses for policy are “oversight, appropriations, the legislative process and Senate confirmations and through elections,” not impeachment.

Rep. Josh Brecheen, an Oklahoma Republican, said he felt it was dangerous for the executive branch to pick and choose which policies to follow.

“To allow the executive (branch) on how to enforce it or what to enforce, you’ve granted them the ability to become a king,” Brecheen said.

Ivey agreed there is no monarchy in the United States.

“We don’t have kings, we have elections and we have three branches of government,” he said.

‘Thin on constitutional grounds’

Democrats defended Mayorkas and argued that the articles of impeachment did not rise to the high bar needed.

Rhode Island Democratic Rep. Seth Magaziner said that the grounds for impeachment are treason, bribery or high crimes and misdemeanors, and he argued that Republicans have not made that case for Mayorkas.

“The case here is so thin on constitutional grounds that it’s laughable,” he said.

The first article of impeachment that cites laws Mayorkas did not follow includes detention and removal requirements under the Immigration and Nationality Act, such as the requirement for expedited removals.

Exceptions to expedited removal include credible fears on the part of migrants and claims of asylum. In 2021, Biden directed DHS to review those noncitizens who were subject to expedited removal and a year later the agency rescinded the expansion of expedited removal under the Trump administration, citing limited resources.

The first article of impeachment also cites Mayorkas’ use of parole authority, which allows migrants temporary protections without a visa. The executive branch has had this authority since the 1950s, but federal courts are currently reviewing the range of that parole authority.

The Biden administration has created temporary protections for certain nationals who qualify to allow them to temporarily work and reside in the country. Some migrants who are eligible for parole are from Afghanistan, Ukraine, Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela, among others.

The first article of impeachment argues that because of those policies, Mayorkas is responsible for the unprecedented number of migrants. For the 2024 fiscal year, which started Oct. 1, there have been more than 785,000 migrant encounters at the border, according to recent DHS data.

The articles also accuse Mayorkas of being responsible for the strain on cities that are struggling to care for migrants such as New York City. Abbott has placed migrants on buses and planes and sent them to mainly Democratic-run cities without alerting local officials.

The first article of impeachment also blamed Mayorkas for profits made by smuggling operations, backlogs of asylum cases in immigration courts, fentanyl-related deaths and migrant children found working in dangerous jobs. Republican state legislatures have moved to roll back child labor laws in industries from the food industry to roofing.

Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee introduced an amendment to eliminate the first article of impeachment.

It failed on a 15-18 party-line vote.

Another amendment by Democratic Rep. Lou Correa of California eliminated the second article of impeachment.

It also failed on a 15-18 party-line vote.

The second article of impeachment argues Mayorkas has breached public trust by making several statements in congressional testimony that Republicans argue are false.

“Mr. Mayorkas lied to Congress,” Green said.

They cited statements by Mayorkas telling lawmakers the border is “secure,” and saying that the Afghans placed into the humanitarian parole program were properly vetted following the Taliban takeover of the country after the U.S. evacuated.

The second article of impeachment said that another false statement Mayorkas made was about a 2021 image of U.S. Border Patrol agents on horseback with whips as Haitian migrants were running away.

Mayorkas said he was “horrified” by the image and would immediately investigate.

An internal report found that the agents did not whip the migrants but used excessive force.

The second article of impeachment also charges Mayorkas with not fulfilling his statutory duty by rolling back Trump-era policies such as terminating contracts that would have continued construction of the border wall and ending the Migrant Protection Protocols, also known as the “Remain in Mexico” policy.

“If he is changing the policies of the Trump administration, that means it’s a policy decision, not a violation of the law,” Democrat of New York Dan Goldman said.

Goldman was the lead counsel for the first impeachment inquiry of Trump when he was president.

Remain in Mexico policy

Florida GOP Rep. Laurel Lee said that Mayorkas was ordered to reinstate the remain in Mexico policy and failed to do so. Mayorkas was not ordered to reinstate the 2019 Trump-era policy.

In a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court upheld in 2022 that the Biden administration had the authority to end the remain in Mexico policy.

The remain in Mexico policy required asylum seekers to wait in Mexico while their cases were heard in immigration court. Many immigration advocates argued this left migrants in dangerous situations.

“He’s come to this Congress and he’s given testimony before that was demonstrably false, stating that our border was secure, stating that he had operational control of the border when in fact, every person in this room, and I dare say the vast majority of America, knows that is not the truth,” Lee said.

Democrats accused Republicans of wanting to campaign on immigration rather than fixing the problem.

“The real reason we are here, as we all know, is because Donald Trump wants to run on immigration for his number one issue in the November 2024 election,” Goldman said.

Democratic Rep. Troy Carter of Louisiana said impeaching Mayorkas would set a dangerous precedent.

“So the slippery slope of ‘just because we can’ is a dangerous one,” he said. “You have no evidence to support why a person is impeached.”

Republican Carlos Gimenez of Florida said impeaching Mayorkas was not about politics and that the Biden administration is “using policy to mask unlawful behavior.”

Democratic Rep. Dina Titus of Nevada said the markup was a “political stunt.”

“I think another saying that appropriately describes what’s going on here, and that’s just shoveling the same old sh-t and calling it sugar,” she said.

Georgia Recorder is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Georgia Recorder maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor John McCosh for questions: info@georgiarecorder.com. Follow Georgia Recorder on Facebook and Twitter.

This article is republished from Georgia Recorder under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.