Republicans in the House of Representatives voted along party lines early Wednesday to move toward impeaching Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas for a “willful and systematic” refusal to enforce immigration laws as border security becomes a top 2024 election issue.
The articles allege Mr Mayorkas “refused to comply with Federal immigration law”, amid a record surge of migrants and that he “breached the public trust” when he told Congress the US-Mexico border was secure
Homeland Security Committee Republicans voted in favour, while the Democrats unified against it in an 18-15 vote.
It is a rare charge against a Cabinet official unseen in nearly 150 years, as Republicans make presidential front-runner Donald Trump’s hard-line deportation approach to immigration their own.
“We cannot allow this man to remain in office any longer,” committee Chairman, Mark Green, said.
A vote on the House floor could occur as soon as next week. If approved, the charges would go to the Senate for a trial, though senators may first convene a special committee for consideration.
It’s rare for a Cabinet member to face impeachment’s bar of “high crimes and misdemeanors.” Democrats dismissed the proceedings as a “political stunt” that could set a chilling precedent for other civil servants snared in policy disputes by lawmakers who disagree with the president’s approach.
“This is a terrible day for the committee, the United States, the Constitution and our great country,” said Mississippi Representative Bennie Thompson.
He added that “the MAGA-led impeachment of Secretary Mayorkas is a baseless sham.”
The House’s proceedings against Mayorkas have created an oddly split-screen Capitol Hill, as the Senate works deliberately with the secretary on a bipartisan border security package that is now on life support.
The package being negotiated by the senators with Mr Mayorkas could emerge as the most consequential bipartisan immigration proposal in a decade. Or it could collapse in political failure as Republicans, and some Democrats, run from the effort.
Trump, on the campaign trail and in private talks, has tried to squelch the deal. “I’d rather have no bill than a bad bill,” Mr Trump said over the weekend in Las Vegas.
President Joe Biden, in his own campaign remarks in South Carolina, said if Congress sends him a bill with emergency authority he’ll “shut down the border right now” to get migration under control.
“I’ve done all I can do,” Mr Biden told reporters. “Give me the power” through legislation, which he said is something he’s asked, “from the very day I got in office.”
The Republicans are focused on the secretary’s handling of the southern border, which has experienced an increasing number of migrants over the past year, many seeking asylum in the U.S., at a time when drug cartels are using the border with Mexico to traffic people and ship deadly fentanyl into the states.
Representative Elise Stefanik, a Trump ally often mentioned as a possible vice presidential pick, called it an “invasion.”
Republicans contend that the Biden administration and Mr Mayorkas either got rid of policies in place under Trump that had controlled migration or enacted policies of their own that encouraged migrants from around the world to come to the US illegally via the southern border.
Democrats argue that Mr Mayorkas is acting under his legal authority at the department and that the criticisms against him do not rise to the level of impeachment.
It’s unclear if Republicans will have the support from their ranks to go through with the impeachment vote in the full House, especially with their slim majority and with Democrats expected to
AP contributed to this report