Impeachment Resolution Introduced Against DHS Secretary Mayorkas

His replacement likely wouldn’t do anything differently, but the impeachment process might be worth the effort

By Andrew R. Arthur on January 17, 2023

Rep. Pat Fallon (R-Texas) introduced a resolution earlier this month calling for the impeachment of DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. In late November, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) — who was recently elected speaker of the House — called on Mayorkas to resign or face an impeachment inquiry. There are reports that efforts to impeach Mayorkas are dividing the House GOP conference, but all of this raises the question — what difference would it make if Mayorkas were gone? Reasonable people can object to his performance, but the real problem is the policies he has to shill for. Still, the process may be worth the effort.

Mayorkas. Mayorkas has been secretary of Homeland Security since early February 2021, but this is not his first stint in either the federal government or at DHS.

He started in 1989 at DOJ, in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California, serving as an Assistant U.S. Attorney prosecuting white-collar crimes. After nine years on the job, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) in 1998 recommended that President Clinton name Mayorkas to the top job at that office, and the current secretary became “the youngest United States Attorney in the nation” at the age of 39.

In 2001, Mayorkas left DOJ to head into private practice at O’Melveny & Meyers, a white-shoe California law firm, in their Los Angeles office.

From there, Mayorkas (who had served on President Obama’s presidential transition team) was named as the USCIS director in 2009. While at the agency, Mayorkas implemented the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. As the New York Times explained in a glowing 2012 article on DACA:

Given only two months to prepare, Alejandro Mayorkas, the director of the agency, worked to rally its 18,000 employees, including some 11,000 federal workers, to rise to the task. The applications — sheaves of school transcripts, utility and other bills, rental contracts or other documents immigrants can find to track their daily lives over the past five years — have to be submitted by mail.

In any event, Mayorkas moved up from USCIS to become deputy DHS secretary in 2013, where he served until heading to the D.C. office of yet another bougie law firm, Wilmer Hale, in October 2016.

In November 2020, President-elect Biden revealed that he intended to bring Mayorkas back to the federal government yet again, this time as DHS secretary.

On February 2, 2021, he was confirmed by the Senate, 56 to 43, with Sens. Shelly Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Susan Collins (Maine), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), and Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) joining with their Democratic colleagues in voting for Mayorkas.

That may have been his high point in the job, as it has been a rocky road ever since.

For starters, as secretary, Mayorkas has overseen new records set for Border Patrol apprehensions of illegal migrants at the Southwest border in FY 2021 and then again in FY 2022; issued “guidelines” curtailing immigration enforcement that were vacated by a federal judge (in a case pending before the Supreme Court); and promoted rules that, in the words of my colleague Jon Feere “made every city an illegal alien sanctuary”.

Shift in Power in the House. The Democrats who controlled Congress managed to keep DHS’s dubious recent “accomplishments” largely under wraps, but on those rare occasions when Mayorkas was called to testify on Capitol Hill (in November 2021 and May 2022 especially), sparks flew as Mayorkas offered up his unique spin on how things were going at the border.

With Republicans now in control of the House, Mayorkas will no longer be able to rely on the protection offered by simpatico Democratic chairmen, either when it comes to the number of times he’ll be called to testify (and hearings will be legion) or to the treatment that he will be accorded.

The “five-minute rule” — under which committee members are allowed to ask five minutes of questions per hearing — doesn’t have to apply to the chairman. Chairmen Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) of the House Judiciary Committee and James Comer (R-Ky.) of the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability have been strong critics of Mayorkas’ performance, and the secretary can expect to be grilled without limits.

Mayorkas will need to up his game to deal with the opprobrium he can expect to receive. With due respect to the secretary, and not to get personal, speaking as a former committee staffer I can tell you that his presentation before Congress in the past leaves something to be desired.

He often falls back on his personal history (he immigrated to the United States with his family from Cuba as a child) and career accomplishments (particularly his time as a federal prosecutor), either out of indignity at a line of questioning or to simply run out the clock. Neither appeals to members.

“Operational Control” and Mayorkas’ Prior Testimony. Fallon’s impeachment resolution is premised on the secretary’s performance at the Southwest border, and particularly on Mayorkas’ failure to “achieve and maintain” operational control there as mandated by the Secure Fence Act of 2006 (SFA).

As the resolution notes, the term “operational control” is defined in the SFA as “the prevention of all unlawful entries into the United States, including entries by terrorists, other unlawful aliens, instruments of terrorism, narcotics, and other contraband”.

Given the fact that since FY 2021, some 1.125 million aliens have crossed the Southwest border illegally and evaded Border Patrol apprehension (known colloquially as “got-aways”), it is beyond cavil that DHS under Mayorkas has not even come close to achieving operational control there.

Despite that fact, Mayorkas told Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) in testimony before the House Judiciary Committee in May that his department has achieved operational control at the border, and thereafter explained to Rep. Dan Bishop (R-N.C.) that not only was the border secure, but also that “we are working day in and day out to enhance security”.

Notably, however, in Senate testimony that same week, the secretary told Sen. Jim Lankford (R-Okla.) that “this country has never had operational control” of its borders.

He continued, contending that “obviously a layer of reasonableness must be applied here, and looking at that definition through the lens of reasonableness, we dedicate now 23,000 personnel to the border, we are surging increased personnel, facilities, and other methods of support, and in my opinion, operational control means maximizing the resources we have to deliver the most effective results.”

Note that the SFA is not written in aspirational terms, despite Mayorkas’ contentions about “layers of reasonableness”, but again respectfully, nobody’s judging the secretary’s “opinion”, only his results. And his results at the border have been underwhelming, chaotic, and dismal.

Who’s To Blame? All of that said, I’m not entirely sure who authored, and therefore who’s to blame for, the Biden administration’s feckless, misguided, and destructive immigration policies.

I seriously doubt it’s Mayorkas. At committee hearings on the border, when he’s not bobbing and weaving under congressional scrutiny, the secretary evinces that he is defending the indefensible. You don’t get to be a prosecutor-wunderkind without being able to craft reasonable arguments, but at some of those hearings, frustration and peevishness is all that he has had to offer in response.

Nor do I think that Vice President Kamala Harris, the quasi-“border czar”, is calling the shots, either. Harris was given that portfolio in March 2021, and has spent most of the interim distancing herself from the role, although she did do a brief drop-in at a shelter in El Paso in July 2021 and has visited a handful of Central American countries.

The only clue that points to the identity of the person or persons who are making the border calls in the Biden White House is a letter Rodney Scott, Biden’s first Border Patrol chief, wrote to Senate leadership in September 2021 (the month after he retired).

Scott asserted that he was “sickened by the avoidable and rapid disintegration of what was arguably the most effective border security in” U.S. history, explaining that “control of our borders has disintegrated overnight” because “Common sense border security recommendations from experienced career professionals are being ignored and stymied by inexperienced political employees.”

Neither Harris nor Mayorkas fits the description of “inexperienced political employee”, which suggests that unknown and unnamed ideologues in the West Wing are the ones crafting Biden’s immigration policies.

Given that, even if the House votes to impeach Mayorkas, and even if the Senate were to somehow vote to convict him (which is highly unlikely, given that Democrats hold a 51-49 edge in the upper chamber, and conviction requires the agreement of two-thirds of the voting senators), the Biden administration would simply replace him with another zealous advocate and/or patsy willing to face congressional fire.

Fissures in the Conference. Fissures are apparently appearing in the House GOP conference over whether impeaching Mayorkas right away is even a good idea.

The Hill reports that some in the conference, including Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), former chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, don’t want to rush right into impeachment, particularly after they criticized the hurried second Trump impeachment. The paper quotes McCaul, who states:

We need to have hearings on this and we need to gather evidence and facts and, look, do I think the guy has done a terrible job? Yes ... Do I think he’s been derelict in his responsibilities? Yes. But we need to get all this together, and do it in a methodical way.

Not exactly an endorsement of Mayorkas, but McCaul’s sentiments were echoed by his fellow Texan, Rep. Tony Gonzales (R), who argued: “Impeachment is a very serious topic, and it’s one where the facts need to lead you to the results, not have a predetermined decision”.

Might Still Be Worth the Effort. McCaul’s and Gonzales’ points are well taken, which is why the impeachment process might be worth the effort — even though it’s unlikely the secretary would be convicted and doubtful that a successor would be any better.

Given their concerns (which are likely held tacitly by many in the Republican conference), the House Judiciary Committee would have to hold hearings on any impeachment resolution it considered, and during those hearings, the American people would find out what’s being done in their names at the Southwest border.

Not only Mayorkas, but also his advisors and underlings, would likely be called to testify, which would give members the opportunity to examine and drill down on the president’s immigration policies, and the administration the chance to defend them, to the extent it can.

In this social media age, we have become all too accustomed to the hurling of allegations and aspersions by the Twitterati at those with whom they disagree. Televised hearings on (or even better, at) the border could be the tonic and fillip the body politic needs, and a route to a more civilized discourse.

The public diffusion of facts is plainly in order. As I noted in a December post, Harvard-Harris conducted a poll of 1,851 registered voters, and among the questions asked was “How many border crossings by illegal immigrants” respondents thought “were occurring each year”.

In response, 16 percent said “less than 100,000”, 21 percent said “between 100,000 and 250,000”, 18 percent said “between 250,000 and 500,000”, 20 percent said “between 500,000 and 1 million”, 12 percent said “between 1 million and 2 million”, 6 percent said “between 2 million and 3 million”, and 7 percent said, “over 3 million”.

The actual number in FY 2022 was more than 2.2 million who were apprehended, not counting 599,000 got-aways who evaded apprehension to make it into the interior illegally, or a total of about 2.8 million. Thus, 87 percent of respondents underestimated the number of illegal border entrants, and three-quarters — 75 percent — lowballed the actual number by a million migrants or more.

House Republicans should not depend on the vast majority of those in the American media to know — let alone report — that 2.8 million illegal migrants (a figure larger than the population of 14 U.S. states and the District of Columbia) came over the Southwest border last year.

That would just be the first fact that members could lay out, but they could also delve into the president’s reversals on the effectiveness of border fences and the harms and indignities incurred by migrant children at the hands of smugglers, the administration’s illegal expansions of its limited “parole” authority, and why the administration has released an estimated 1.7 million aliens who entered illegally.

Members could also probe how the administration is using the $785 million it requested and got in the FY 2023 omnibus spending bill to house, feed, and transport the aliens it has released in violation of the law.

Most significantly, they could ask why Biden — in a break from all his predecessors — refuses to deter foreign nationals from entering illegally and instead has implemented a policy allowing every alien who can make it to the United States illegally to apply for asylum — regardless of the strength of their claims, or even whether they come seeking asylum at all.

While it will ultimately be up to Congress to decide whether to impeach and convict DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, it’s unlikely that his replacement would do anything differently at the border. The impeachment process may be beneficial, however, especially if it reveals to the American people the scope of the disaster at the Southwest border and explains to them how that disaster happened.