By Matthew Choi, The Texas Tribune
“Texas Republicans at the front of intensifying effort to impeach Mayorkas” was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.
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WASHINGTON — Texas Republicans on the U.S. House Homeland Security Committee excoriated Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas during a hearing Wednesday as conservatives seek to impeach the secretary over the rise in illegal crossings on the southern border.
House Republicans are seeking to oust Mayorkas, accusing him oft a dereliction of duty. If the Republican effort is successful, Mayorkas would be the second cabinet secretary ever impeached. Democrats dismiss the effort as a partisan attack against the secretary, who is operating within immigration laws that only Congress can change.
“I’ve never seen this border more out of control,” U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Austin, said at the hearing. “Mayorkas took an oath to support and defend the constitution of the United States. In my judgment, he’s violated that oath.”
U.S. Rep. Morgan Luttrell, R-Willis, cast Mayorkas as willfully refusing to address the spread of fentanyl into the country and human trafficking across the border, at times raising his voice in frustration.
“Mr. Mayorkas, I’ve chatted him up. He’s a family man, he’s a good man. And I’m going to be crucified going back home saying that,” Luttrell said. “When we go to Mr. Mayorkas and say, ‘Hey, we need to act on this,’ and nothing’s happening, sir, that is an absolute problem.”
Four Texas Republicans — Reps. Tony Gonzales of San Antonio, August Pfluger of San Angelo, Luttrell and McCaul — serve on the committee. Mayorkas did not attend Wednesday’s hearing, but previously cast off the impeachment effort as politically motivated.
The effort to remove Mayorkas has been brewing the House for months, with Texans often at the forefront. U.S. Rep. Pat Fallon filed a motion to impeach the secretary in January of last year for not “maintaining operational control” of the southern border. The Homeland Security hearing Wednesday was in response to another impeachment effort filed by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Georgia.
Even though House Republicans have more seats in the chamber, their majority is exceedingly thin, requiring strong party discipline for articles of impeachment to pass. Democrats maintain control of the Senate and have no interest in removing Mayorkas or Biden from office.
The Texas effort to remove Mayorkas goes beyond the Homeland Security Committee. U.S. Rep. Chip Roy, R-Austin, sent out a letter to the House Republican Conference on Wednesday laying out the case for impeachment. He said Mayorkas lied under oath by saying the administration had operational control of the border, failed to enforce U.S. laws and put Americans in danger by allowing illegal drugs to enter the country.
“Mayorkas lied to me under oath when he claimed he maintained operational control of the border in April 2022 – an absurd assertion at the time by any objective measure,” Roy wrote. There “is a clear precedent for impeachment for lying under oath.”
Roy has been pushing for an impeachment for years. He circulated a letter to his fellow Texas Republicans in October 2021 making the same case.
Impeachment has historically been considered an extraordinary tool, but Republicans have thrown the specter of impeachment repeatedly during their time in the House majority. House Republicans voted to launch an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden in December, even though several Republicans expressed doubts that the inquiry would find sufficient evidence. Democrats have denounced it as retaliation for the two impeachments against President Donald Trump.
The Department of Homeland Security estimated over 300,000 encounters by federal agents with migrants in December — a record monthly high, according to CBS News. The federal government closed the Eagle Pass port of entry in December over the higher number of crossings.
Democrats dismiss the ouster effort as a partisan and unproductive abuse of impeachment. Though many Democrats have expressed frustration with the situation at the border, they assert policy disagreements fall far short of the “high crimes and misdemeanors” required by the constitution.
“It is now campaign season, and Republicans recently rolled out their impeachment proceedings against the secretary like the pre-planned, predetermined political stunt it is,” said U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, a Mississippian who is the top Democrat on the committee. “This is not a legitimate impeachment.”
The Department of Homeland Security released a memo in advance of Wednesday’s hearing, saying: “This unprecedented process, led by extremists, is harmful to the Department and its workforce and undercuts vital work across countless national security priorities.”
Support for the effort has recently grown within the Republican conference, including with House Speaker Mike Johnson.
Johnson went to the border in Eagle Pass last week with a coterie of House Republicans where he demanded stronger border enforcement from the Biden administration. He said House Republicans would hold aid money for Ukraine and Israel unless the administration and Democrats pass stricter border policies. Gonzales hosted the delegation in Eagle Pass as the city’s representative.
Mayorkas made his own visit to Eagle Pass on Monday to meet with Border Patrol agents. He defended the administration as working within a flawed immigration policy that Congress must fix.
“Our immigration system is outdated and broken and has been in need of reform for literally decades,” Mayorkas said. “We will continue to do everything we can, and we will continue to enforce the law, but we need Congress to make the legislative changes and provide the funding that our frontline officers so desperately need.”
Mayorkas pointed out that he is negotiating with both Republican and Democratic senators to work out a deal on the border that would also include aid for Ukraine and Israel. But Johnson said over the weekend that he was less interested in dealing with the secretary.
“Secretary Mayorkas is not a good faith negotiating partner. He is unwilling to enforce existing federal law,” Johnson said in an interview with CBS News aired Sunday.
Usually, impeachment is the jurisdiction of the Judiciary Committee, and Thompson questioned if the committee had the jurisdiction to hold an impeachment hearing. But Chair Mark Green, R-Tennessee, pointed out that the full House voted in November to refer the impeachment motion to the Homeland Security Committee. The Judiciary Committee is currently occupied with the other Republican impeachment effort against Biden.
This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2024/01/10/texas-republicans-mayorkas-impeachment/.
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