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House GOP is moving quickly to impeach Mayorkas as border security becomes top election issue

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Republicans are moving swiftly toward impeaching Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas over what they call his “willful and systematic” refusal to enforce immigration laws, but in a personal appeal he argued they should instead be working with the Biden administration on U.S.-Mexico border security.

The Homeland Security Committee is scheduled to vote Tuesday on two articles of impeachment against Mayorkas, a former federal prosecutor, as border security becomes a top issue in the 2024 elections. Republicans are making GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump’s hardline deportation approach to immigration their own.

Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., said the House is moving ahead with Mayorkas’ impeachment “by necessity” with a full House vote “as soon as possible.”

Rarely has a Cabinet member faced impeachment’s bar of “high crimes and misdemeanors,” and Democrats called the proceedings a “sham” that could set a chilling precedent for other civil servants. It would be the first impeachment of a Cabinet official in nearly 150 years.

The House’s impeachment proceedings against Mayorkas have created an oddly split-screen Capitol Hill, as the Senate has been working intently with the secretary on a bipartisan border security package that is now on life support.

The package being negotiated by the senators with 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 Senate’s border security deal. “I’d rather have no bill than a bad bill,” 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 it under control.

In a pointed letter ahead of the hearing, Mayorkas provided a rebuttal to the charges against him.

Mayorkas defended his work at the department and his negotiations with the Senate, and he urged the House to focus on updating the nation’s “broken and outdated” immigration laws for the 21st century and an era of record global migration.

“We need a legislative solution and only Congress can provide it,” Mayorkas wrote to the panel’s Republican chairman, Mark Green of Tennessee.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul, R-Texas, and other Republicans speak to reporters to show their support for pursuing impeachment of Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas during a news conference at the Capitol in Washington, Monday, Jan. 29, 2024. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Mayorkas, who never testified on his own behalf during the impeachment proceedings — he and the committee couldn’t agree on a date for his appearance — drew on his own background as a child brought to the U.S. by his parents fleeing Cuba, and his career spent prosecuting criminals.

“Your false accusations do not rattle me and do not divert me” from public service, he wrote.

The articles charge that Mayorkas “willfully and systematically refused to comply with Federal immigration laws” and that he has “breached the public trust” in his claims to Congress that the border is secure.

The Republicans are focused on the secretary’s handling of the southern border, which has experienced a record number of migrants over the past year, and what they describe as a crisis of the administration’s own making.

Republicans contend that the administration and Mayorkas specifically 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 U.S. illegally via the southern border.

They also accused Mayorkas of lying to Congress, pointing to comments about the border being secure or about vetting of Afghans airlifted to the U.S. after military withdrawal from the country.

“It’s high time,” said Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, who called Mayorkas the “architect” of the border problems. “He has what’s coming to him.”

The House impeachment hearings against Mayorkas sprinted ahead in January while the Republicans’ impeachment inquiry into Biden over the business dealings over his son, Hunter Biden, dragged.

Democrats argued that Mayorkas is acting under his legal authorities at the department, and that the criticisms against him do not rise to the level of impeachment.

“House Republicans have produced no evidence that Secretary Mayorkas has committed an impeachable offense,” said House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries of New York.

Jeffries called the impeachment proceedings a “political stunt” ordered up by Trump and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., a Trump ally, who pushed the resolution forward toward the votes.

It’s unclear if House Republicans will have the support from their ranks to go through with the impeachment, especially with their slim majority and with Democrats expected to vote against it.

Last year, eight House Republicans voted to shelve the impeachment resolution proposed by Greene rather than send it along to the committee, though many of them have since signaled they would be open to it.

If the House does agree to impeach Mayorkas, the charges would next to go the Senate for a trial. In 1876, the House impeached Defense Secretary William Belknap in 1876 over kickbacks in government contracts, but the Senate acquitted him in a trial.

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