House Panel to Vote on Impeachment Charges Against Mayorkas

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Republicans on the House Homeland Security Committee pressed ahead Tuesday on impeaching Alejandro N. Mayorkas, the homeland security secretary, for his handling of the southwestern border, racing forward with a partisan indictment of President Biden’s immigration policies.

In what were expected to be party-line votes, the panel was poised to charge Mr. Mayorkas with refusing to uphold the law and breaching the public trust in his handling of a surge of migrants across the United States border with Mexico, paving the way for a vote of the full House as early as next week.

“Secretary Mayorkas has put his political preferences above following the law,” Representative Mark E. Green, Republican of Tennessee and chairman of the panel, said at the start of Tuesday’s session. He added that the results of Mr. Mayorkas’s border policies “have been catastrophic and have endangered the lives and livelihoods of all Americans.”

Republicans were set to approve the charges in the face of solid opposition from Democrats and an emerging consensus among legal scholars that they have produced no evidence that the secretary has committed impeachable offenses.

G.O.P. leaders, whose House majority has shrunk to only the barest of margins, will need near-unanimous support to impeach Mr. Mayorkas in the full chamber. They believe they can reach that level despite some lingering skepticism in their ranks about whether impeachment is warranted.

“Neither of the impeachment charges the committee will consider today are a high crime or misdemeanor,” Representative Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, the panel’s most senior Democrat, said Tuesday. He added that House Republicans “don’t want progress. They don’t want solutions. They want a political issue.”

Though House Democrats raised a series of procedural objections to the impeachment proceedings, their efforts to derail the process fell flat on Tuesday in a series of party-line votes.

The charges, should they pass the House, would be all but certain to collapse in the Democratic-controlled Senate, where a two-thirds majority would be required to convict and remove Mr. Mayorkas. But they would force an election-year trial in which Republicans will have the chance to air their indictment of Mr. Biden’s immigration policies.

Republicans have accused Mr. Mayorkas of violating provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act that mandate that migrants not otherwise admissible to the United States “shall be detained” pending their removal, or a decision about their claims to asylum.

“Instead of complying with this requirement, Alejandro N. Mayorkas has implemented a catch-and-release scheme, whereby such aliens are unlawfully released,” the first impeachment article reads.

It also charges Mr. Mayorkas with having failed to take every migrant deportable on criminal or terrorism grounds into custody, and with having “willfully exceeded his parole authority” under the law to let large categories of migrants into the country. Those include Ukrainians and Afghans fleeing war and Venezuelans, Haitians and others fleeing economically ravaged countries.

But immigration laws grant the president and his administration broad powers to handle the border as they see fit. For instance, the same law Republicans cited in one of the impeachment articles also gives the administration latitude to let individuals into the country temporarily for humanitarian reasons or for the public benefit on a case-by-case basis — with no further limitations on how widely it can be applied. Such parole powers have existed since the 1950s, and several administrations — including those of former Presidents Donald J. Trump, Barack Obama and George W. Bush — have used it to allow large numbers of migrants to live and work in the United States temporarily.

The impeachment articles also charge Mr. Mayorkas with obstructing the G.O.P.’ s investigation, and having “knowingly made false statements” about the state of security at the southern border with Mexico. That is a reference to testimony Mr. Mayorkas gave to Congress in 2022 that his department had “operational control” of the border, which Republicans have argued was demonstrably false under the 2006 Secure Fences Act, which defines the term as the absence of any unlawful crossings of migrants or drugs.

Mr. Mayorkas has said he was employing the far lower standard of “operational control” used by the Border Patrol, which defines the term as “the ability to detect, respond and interdict border penetrations in areas deemed as high priority.”

In a letter to the panel on Tuesday, the secretary, whom Republicans did not allow to testify publicly in his own defense after scheduling disputes, forcefully contested the charges.

“You claim that we have failed to enforce our immigration laws,” Mr. Mayorkas wrote. “That is false.” He said Republicans’ allegation that he obstructed their inquiries was “baseless and inaccurate.”

The G.O.P.’s investigation of Mr. Mayorkas is culminating as a bipartisan group of senators races to finalize a border security deal the secretary helped negotiate. But the agreement faces grim prospects as Republicans, egged on by Mr. Trump, have denounced it as too weak, and Speaker Mike Johnson has declared it “dead on arrival” in the House.

Mr. Biden has implored Congress to approve the plan, promising to “shut down the border” if it becomes law.

Democrats have argued that Republicans are impeaching Mr. Mayorkas as part of a strategy to keep the border in chaos so Mr. Trump, who is once again marching toward the G.O.P. presidential nomination, can capitalize on public dissatisfaction and campaign on a pledge to fix it.

“Republicans are perpetuating challenges at the border to help re-elect Donald Trump,” Democrats on the Homeland Security panel wrote in a report. They argued that the G.O.P. was trying to make Mr. Mayorkas a scapegoat for problems only Congress could solve.

“They are playing the political blame game to deflect attention from their failure to take meaningful action on border security and immigration legislation and provide necessary border security funding,” the report said.

Republicans argue that the Constitution offers ample latitude to impeach an official over what they call his “ill behavior” toward the law.

“His refusal to obey the law is not only an offense against the separation of powers in the Constitution of the United States,” one impeachment article says. “It also threatens our national security and has had a dire impact on communities across the country.”

Democrats say Republicans are bowing to the hard right by seeking to use a severe constitutional punishment against Mr. Mayorkas.

“This is a political stunt and a hit job,” Representative Hakeem Jeffries of New York, the minority leader, told reporters on Monday. “The House Republicans have clearly turned their ever-shrinking majority over to the extremists, and this sham impeachment of Secretary Mayorkas is just another sad example.”

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