The Republican-led House of Representatives on Tuesday failed to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas over his handling of the crisis at the southern border – marking a major blow for House Republicans who have pushed for Mayorkas’ removal.
The House voted mostly along party lines, but Republicans suffered a number of defections which torpedoed the vote. Four Republicans ultimately voted no: Rep. Tom Clintock, R-Calif., Ken Buck, R-Colo., Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., and Blake Moore, R-Utah, who switched his vote at the last minute in a procedural move to be able to bring the resolution back to the floor.
But Democrats remained united. The vote was 214-216. Lawmakers voted on a resolution combining two articles of impeachment that accused Mayorkas of having “refused to comply with Federal immigration laws” and the other of having violated “public trust.” A Cabinet secretary has not been impeached since 1876, when Secretary of War William Belknap was impeached.
The move is a crushing blow to the Republican majority, who held hearings throughout 2023 on Mayorkas’ “dereliction of duty” and additional hearings on the impeachment articles themselves earlier this year. Lawmakers accused Mayorkas of disregarding federal law with “open border policies” that have made the ongoing crisis at the southern border worse. They have pointed to the rolling back of Trump-era policies like border wall construction and Remain-in-Mexico as well as reducing interior enforcement and expanding “catch-and-release.” They say it has fueled record numbers at the southern border, where numbers breached the 300,000 mark in December.
“Under Secretary Mayorkas’ watch, Customs and Border Protection has reported more than 8.5 million encounters at our borders, including more than seven million apprehensions at the Southwest border,” Homeland Security Committee Chairman Mark Green said on the House floor. “Even more terrifying is the approximately 1.8 million known gotaways, that Border Patrol agents detect, but are unable to apprehend. Millions of those inadmissible aliens who are encountered are eventually released into our communities. This has never happened before in our history. And it doesn’t happen by accident.”
Green said that Republicans had been left with “no other option” than to proceed.
“We, the people’s representatives, have no opinion, no option but to exercise this duty when branch officials blatantly refuse to comply with the laws we have passed threaten the separation of powers, imperiled the constitutional order, and expose Americans to untold suffering and death,” he said.
Democrats and the administration had painted the impeachment push as politically-motivated on nothing more than policy disagreements, and nothing that approaches high crimes and misdemeanors.
“Far from alleging high crimes and misdemeanors, this resolution relies on the same tired and untrue Republican talking points that Democrats have demonstrated for months are not true,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., said.
Homeland Security Committee Ranking Member Bennie Thompson called the push a “travesty” and an “affront to the Constitution.”
“Rather than doing what’s right for America because it’s clear that Republicans have failed to make the case for impeachment. They have failed to articulate a single high crime and misdemeanor. The other side of the aisle reeks of desperation,” he said.
Mayorkas himself had attacked the push against him, calling the allegations “false” and “baseless.”
“I assure you that your false accusations do not rattle me and do not divert me from the law enforcement and broader public service mission to which I have devoted most of my career and to which I remain devoted,” Mayorkas said.
DHS has pointed to more than 500,000 removals since May and record seizures of fentanyl at the border to counteract claims that it has pursued open border policies. It has also called on Republicans to provide more funding and to work with the administration to fix a “broken” immigration system. Meanwhile it has pointed to Republicans and former DHS officials who have opposed the impeachment effort.
“This farce of an impeachment is a distraction from other vital national security priorities and the work Congress should be doing to actually fix our broken immigration laws,” a DHS official said in a recent memo.
After the vote failed, Democrats were gleeful.
“House Republicans just tried to impeach Secretary Mayorkas purely as a political stunt: AND THEY FAILED,” Jayapal said on X, formerly known as Twitter. “As they keep wasting their time in the majority, Democrats will continue working for the American people.”