Over the last two years, the House GOP has become increasingly vocal about their disagreements with the Biden administration on immigration and border policy. In recent weeks, this disagreement has reached a fever pitch. There has been a revitalized push from members of the House GOP to impeach Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas for “dereliction of duty,” among other issues.
Notably, “dereliction of duty” is not a ground of impeachment under the Constitution. Someone may only be impeached for “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” In addition, analysis of a “preliminary report” released on Wednesday by the House Homeland Security Committee GOP staff declaring that Secretary Mayorkas “must be investigated for his border crisis” reveals that many of the claims made by Mayorkas’ opponents omit crucial context and downplay the difficulty of managing the southern border in a time of growing global displacement.
The latest talk of impeachment seems largely driven by House GOP leadership’s need to maintain support of its most conservative members. In late May, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who was considering voting against the debt ceiling deal negotiated by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, declared that the only way she’d vote for a “sh-t sandwich” would be if she got “some sides and some desserts.” The most “beautiful dessert,” according to the Rep. Greene, would be to impeach Secretary Mayorkas.
In the two weeks since the passage of the debt deal, both the House Judiciary Committee and the House Homeland Security Committee have each held hearings on the border aimed at laying out their case for why Secretary Mayorkas should be investigated—and ultimately impeached.
The “preliminary report” released by GOP staff argues that President Biden “intentionally” caused a border crisis and has used Secretary Mayorkas to follow through on that claim. But on closer analysis, the report’s glaring flaws are clear, showing the weakness of many of these claims—weaknesses that should completely undermine any the efforts to impeach and convict the secretary.
For example, the report repeatedly conflates actions taken by President Biden or other cabinet officials with actions taken by Secretary Mayorkas. This includes things like the blocked-in-court 100-day deportation moratorium (instituted before Mayorkas was sworn into office); the decision to end the so-called Asylum Cooperative Agreements signed under Trump (which were terminated by the Secretary of State); and the decision to end Title 42 (which occurred because the Secretary of Health and Human Services ended the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency).
The report also gets much of the information about the state of the border when Biden took office wrong. For example, the report claims that President Trump “brought illegal immigration to a four-decade low” before Biden took office. In reality, the only time migration dropped that low was for a single month in April 2020, when COVID-19 lockdowns across Mexico caused a massive and unprecedented reduction in cross-border migration. Border apprehensions rose every single month after that, and by December 2020 – when President Trump was still in office – apprehensions were at the highest level for a December in 20 years.
Other times, the report blames Secretary Mayorkas for actions taken by Congress itself. For example, the report accuses the Biden administration of “empowering a vast NGO network to facilitate illegal immigration” because NGOs receive some grants from FEMA to provide services to migrants released at the border. But those grants come from funding that was specifically provided by Congress, not developed independently by the Biden administration. In fact, Congress has rightfully provided funding through FEMA to organizations and local communities supporting recently released migrants four separate times, including in 2019 under the Trump administration.
The report also repeatedly attacks the Biden administration for releasing migrants at the border. But in reality, every administration has released some migrants in this manner due to inherent resource limitations and the complex reality of border enforcement. If there are 10 people who cross the border that the law says should be detained, and only 5 ICE detention beds available, then by necessity the other 5 must be released.
This dynamic has existed under both Republican and Democratic presidential administrations alike. It is the key reason that even the Trump administration ended up releasing 1.1 million migrants from DHS custody in his four years in office.
Given how threadbare the evidence in favor of impeachment is, it’s no surprise that its proponents have struggled to reach consensus. House Judiciary Committee Chair Rep. McClintock, for example, is reportedly not in support of impeachment.
There’s no doubt that the Biden administration has struggled to manage the current situation at the border. In an era of unprecedented migration, every country in the region is feeling the impact, not just the United States. But the answer to this challenge isn’t more political grandstanding. It’s to invest in the humanitarian protections which are badly out of date and severely under-resourced.
Over the last four years, the United States spent $8 on immigration enforcement for every $1 spent on immigration courts and asylum and refugee adjudication. It’s no surprise, then, that we have a backlog of over 1.3 million asylum applications pending across the system and delays in immigration court of up to five years or more.
Fixing this resource imbalance won’t solve the problems overnight, but it can build a more flexible and durable humanitarian protection system that can reduce the chaos at the border going forward.
FILED UNDER: Alejandro Mayorkas, Department of Homeland Security