Opponents of Mayorkas contend that a record number of illegal immigrants crossing the border could form a basis for Mayorkas to be impeached. Impeachment is an act of the House whereby a majority of lawmakers vote to file charges against “civil officers” of the federal government. When an official is impeached, the case proceeds to the U.S. Senate for trial.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) reported in October that encounters with illegal immigrants during Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 exceeded all prior years. The agency stated that border guards encountered 2.38 million illegal aliens along the southern border, including 2.21 million arrests of individuals who crossed between ports of entry. 1.5 million of these encounters occurred in border patrol sectors anchored in Texas.
There is no question that illegal immigration is a political headache for Mayorkas and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
After CBP published the report for FY 2022, Mayorkas virtually forced CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus to resign. On Friday, November 11, the Los Angeles Times published comments by Magnus indicating he had no intention of leaving his post. He resigned the following day, clearing the way for Acting Commissioner Troy Miller to take charge. Miller previously served as acting commissioner prior to Magnus’ nomination by President Biden and confirmation by the Senate in December 2021.
Even Democrats have called on Mayorkas to do more about illegal immigration. When illegal crossings began to spike at the beginning of the Biden administration, Del Rio Mayor Bruno Lozano called it a “Biden border crisis.” Lozano’s city of Del Rio would later become ground zero for illegal immigration when tens of thousands Haitian nationals crossed the border unlawfully in September 2021 due to factors including a deportation freeze, confusion over temporary protected status for Haitians, and lies by human traffickers.
Led by Attorney General Ken Paxton, the State of Texas has sued the Biden administration almost a dozen times over illegal immigration. Paxton filed suit on topics ranging from the president’s withdrawal of the “Remain in Mexico” policy to the rescission of the Title 42 public health order.
Meanwhile, the federal government stands by its handling of illegal immigration. Last week, U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar defended the DHS during oral arguments in the U.S. Supreme Court. Prelogar said that the agency’s more lenient deportation guidelines are necessary due to limited resources allocated by Congress. On the other hand, Texas Solicitor General Judd Stone stated that federal law requires the DHS to pursue removal when a person crosses the border illegally.
Another point Republicans raise is the false accusation that border patrol agents had “whipped” Haitian illegal immigrants crossing the Rio Grande near Del Rio during the surge in September of last year. An investigation cleared border guards of the allegation, though the agency still condemned “unprofessional” conduct on their part. The “whipping” charges stemmed from photographs of a horseback agent using long reins to control his horse while blocking the path of a person crossing the river.
Mayorkas condemned the photographs in question as “horrifying” and suggested the agent’s actions could have been racially motivated.
“In the midst of meeting these challenges, we — our entire nation — saw horrifying images that do not reflect who we are, who we aspire to be, or the integrity and values of our truly heroic personnel in the Department of Homeland Security,” Mayorkas commented at the time.
“The investigation into what occurred has not yet concluded. We know that those images painfully conjured up the worst elements of our nation’s ongoing battle against systemic racism.”
It was later reported that Mayorkas made these statements after seeing evidence that the “whipping” narrative was untrue. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) charged that Mayorkas “intentionally misled the public and vilified Border Patrol agents for political gain.”
With the imminent court-ordered end of expulsions under Title 42, Republicans fear an uncontrollable surge of illegal immigration. Mayorkas stated in April that his department is prepared for the end of Title 42 enforcement, and Vice President Kamala Harris has contended that the border is already secure.
Harris stated in an interview in September, “We have a secure border in that that is a priority for any nation, including ours and our administration, but there are still a lot of problems that we are trying to fix given the deterioration that happened over the last four years.”
The vice president also blamed Trump for a “broken immigration system.”
The DHS has released hundreds of thousands of noncitizens on their own recognizance, and federal employees even accept arrest warrants from illegal aliens as a valid form of identification at airport security checkpoints.
Mayorkas has suggested that Republicans are responsible for incentivizing illegal immigration by fueling the idea that the border is open under the Biden administration.
Congressman Kevin McCarthy (R-CA-23), the leader of the House Republican caucus, stated during a visit to El Paso that House Republicans would pursue an impeachment investigation against Mayorkas if he does not resign. McCarthy is favored to be elected speaker when the new Congress is seated in January.
In October, Congressman Michael Cloud (R-TX-27) told The Texan in an interview that impeaching Mayorkas would be a priority for him and others in the GOP caucus.
“First of all, we’ve got to impeach Mayorkas. I mean, this guy is not acting in good faith,” Cloud said. “He lies to the American people, he lies about what’s going on on the border. I visited the facilities, and they’ll literally lie about what’s happening in front of our eyes.”
Other Republican members of Congress, including Ronny Jackson (R-TX-13), have backed impeachment. Many Republicans previously introduced a resolution to impeach Mayorkas in August 2021.
“Secretary Mayorkas has failed to faithfully uphold his oath and has instead presided over a reckless abandonment of border security and immigration enforcement, at the expense of the Constitution and the security of the United States,” the resolution read.
“Secretary Mayorkas has violated, and continues to violate, this requirement by failing to maintain operational control of the border and releasing hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens into the interior of the United States.”
The process for impeaching a DHS secretary would be similar to a presidential impeachment. The House impeached former President Trump twice, but the Senate acquitted him both times. Trump was impeached in December 2019 on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. The House impeached Trump again in January 2021 on a charge of incitement of insurrection after the riot at the U.S. Capitol.
The impeachment of a cabinet secretary has occurred only once before. The House impeached Secretary of War William W. Belknap on March 2, 1876 on charges of “criminal disregard for his office and accepting payments in exchange for making official appointments.” However, the Senate ultimately acquitted Belknap after less than two thirds of the chamber voted for his conviction.
Impeachment requires only a simple majority, while conviction in the Senate requires a two thirds vote. The Democrat-controlled Senate would be unlikely to convict Mayorkas. While Democrats won only 48 seats in the Senate, Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Angus King (I-ME), caucus with the Democrats. Vice President Kamala Harris also has the ability to cast the tie breaking vote. Consequently, even if Republican nominee Herschel Walker wins the runoff in Georgia, Democrats will control the upper chamber.
The GOP majority in the House will be slim and moderate Republicans may be hesitant to impeach a cabinet member. Republicans are likely to win 222 seats in the lower chamber while Democrats won 213 on Election Day. The Republican caucus could only afford to lose four votes in an effort to impeach Mayorkas.
Congresswoman Lauren Boebert (R-CO-03) is likely to win reelection after her opponent, Democrat Adam Frisch, conceded the race. However, having won by less than half a percentage point, the election is undergoing a recount as mandated by Colorado law.
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Hayden Sparks is a senior reporter for The Texan and a lifelong resident of the Lone Star State. He has coached competitive speech and debate and has been involved in politics since a young age. One of Hayden's favorite quotes is by Sam Houston: "Texas has yet to learn submission to any oppression, come from what source it may."