WASHINGTON – House Republicans are taking their final steps toward impeaching Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, setting up a formal vote targeting a cabinet secretary for the first time in almost 150 years.
The GOP-led House Homeland Security Committee in a fiery hearing on Tuesday approved two articles of impeachment against Mayorkas. They accuse him of a “willful and systemic refusal to comply with the law” and a “breach of public trust” over his handling of the the nation’s southern border.
But why exactly do Republicans want to impeach the homeland security secretary? How have Mayorkas and his allies responded? Here’s what you need to know.
Why are Republicans pushing to impeach Mayorkas?
House Republicans have long sought to impeach Mayorkas over the U.S.-Mexico border and his management of the policies surrounding undocumented immigrants in the U.S. GOP lawmakers have argued the secretary has deliberately allowed the status quo to continue and failed to use his role to take action.
“We have not approached this process lightly. Secretary Mayorkas’ actions have forced our hand. We cannot allow this border crisis to continue,” Rep. Mark Green, R-Tenn., chair of the committee, said in his opening statement on Tuesday, contending that Mayorkas has willfully declined to enforce existing immigration laws to address the border.
While House Republicans have accused Mayorkas of not acting on the immigration laws the nation already has in place, they’re also eyeing new border policy.
GOP lawmakers in the House passed a sweeping, hardline border plan, known as H.R. 2, last year. The legislation would clear the way to build more of a border wall and set new restrictions for asylum seekers. However, that bill, which passed along party lines, has all but died in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
How have Mayorkas and his allies responded?
Hours before the hearing, Mayorkas sent a letter to the committee pushing back against Green’s claims. He argued his department has “provided Congress and your Committee hours of testimony, thousands of documents, hundreds of briefings.”
“Undoubtedly, we have policy disagreements on the historically divisive issue of immigration. That has been the case between Administrations and Members of Congress for much longer than the past 38 years since the last overhaul of our immigration system,” Mayorkas said in the letter.
He noted that bipartisan discussions on border policy and immigration reform are ongoing in the Senate, which Mayorkas has been partly involved in recent months.
Democrats have also criticized Republicans for pursuing impeachment against the secretary over what they say are simply policy differences, not any high crimes or misdemeanors.
“Neither of the impeachment charges the committee will consider today are a high crime or misdemeanor,” Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., told his fellow lawmakers during the Tuesday hearing, referencing the standard for impeachment laid out in the Constitution. “No serious person believes they are.”
Some legal experts have also argued against Mayorkas’ impeachment. Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University and a witness often called by Republicans at committee hearings, told Fox News on Monday he does not “believe that they have a cognizable basis here for impeachment.”
And the White House and Department of Homeland Security have often said they lack the proper resources and funding to properly enforce the law, putting the ball in Congress’ court.
Will Mayorkas be impeached? What comes next?
The House’s Republican leaders are currently shoring up support for a formal vote to impeach Mayorkas. Republicans have a razor-thin majority in the lower chamber, so they can’t afford to lose the GOP lawmakers holding out on publicly backing the impeachment effort.
Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., a key vulnerable member who was previously undecided on impeaching the secretary, told reporters on Monday evening he now supports the efforts in a good sign for leadership.
But remember, if the House votes to impeach an official, that doesn’t mean that they’ll immediately be removed from office. If the lower chamber does vote to impeach a president, cabinet secretary or other official, that push then goes to the Senate for a trial. Senators can ultimately vote on whether they want to remove an individual from their post.
But in Mayorkas’ case, even if the articles of impeachment clear the House, it is extremely unlikely he will be convicted in a trial in the Senate, which is controlled by Democrats.