The American Conservative, January 8, 2024
A key Republican demand in ongoing budget negotiations has to be that Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas must leave office — now. Although President Biden is ultimately responsible for our country’s illegal migration mess, removing Mayorkas, an extreme open-border ideologue, is an indispensable first step in addressing the crisis.
If Republicans in Congress close ranks, they could ensure that any budget deal includes replacing Mayorkas with a new, less-radical DHS secretary, one who actually believes in the good-faith implementation of existing U.S. immigration and border-security laws. Given what we know about Mayorkas, any budget agreement that calls for new border protection measures, while also leaving him in office to implement them, is probably doomed.
This DHS secretary is the antithesis of homeland security. Mayorkas’s reckless performance in office screams contempt for his highest duty, set down in law, “to control and guard the boundaries and borders of the United States against the illegal entry of aliens” (8 USC § 1103). Mayorkas has cast aside his fundamental security duty in favor of creating “humane pathways” for unauthorized migrants to come to America, a priority he has proclaimed many times at home and abroad.
Mayorkas’s rogue “humane pathways” doctrine is far outside the authorities of the DHS secretary and one that directly usurps the constitutional power of the Congress to set the limits of foreign migrants who enter the country. Mayorkas has denuded U.S. border protection and overturned visa laws; his policies have admitted millions of illegal migrants, putting at risk the basic security and health standards of scores of American cities and communities.
Before Mayorkas, U.S. border security, while often strained, was essentially working to protect the country. Rejecting counsel from DHS career officials, Mayorkas declines to enforce existing law because he is a committed open-border ideologue, convinced that America has no moral right to turn away the millions of economic migrants who want to cross our frontiers.
Mayorkas believes that the classically narrow concept of “providing asylum” means encouraging would-be migrants the world over to clandestinely travel to our border, where he admits them as putative asylees, no matter how many safe countries they traverse along the way. His personal moral standards of “justice” for the treatment of these foreigners is a higher priority than avoiding the havoc his policy is wreaking on American communities that he is sworn to protect. Keeping such a man in charge of DHS is the equivalent of naming an avowed pacifist to run the Pentagon. Mayorkas is fundamentally not in step with the mission of his agency.
With this record of lawlessness, why should Republicans expect Mayorkas to change his tune as part of any budget deal package worked out with the White House? How will House Republicans guarantee that Mayorkas would faithfully carry out any new commitments when he flouts those existing?
As his many hours of testimony before the House and Senate have already demonstrated, Mayorkas has no interest in working with Congress. His concept of consultation, no matter how dressed up with smiles and calls for humanitarianism, is no more than “I am the law.” It is no surprise that, under Mayorkas, DHS has hidden data from Congress and obfuscated its role in facilitating migrant entries.
Understandably, House Republicans are pursuing impeachment against this rogue official, and Mayorkas’s executive malfeasance certainly merits it. But is it the right political tactic at this moment? The White House will fight impeachment, which has in any event little chance of success. On the other hand, the president might actually accept Mayorkas’s “resignation” as part of a budget deal that secures the Ukraine funding the Democrats desperately want.
Sacking Mayorkas as part of a budget deal, instead of pursuing impeachment, is an approach that Republicans in both the House and Senate can get behind. If Republicans stick together, they can force the White House to replace the current secretary with a less radical ideologue. Like all presidents, Biden will defend his right to name cabinet officers, but the Republicans could still exert significant influence on the selection of a new DHS secretary.
True, there are not many senior Democrats that conservatives would realistically accept to replace Mayorkas—former DHS secretaries Jeh Johnson or Janet Napolitano come to mind—but almost anybody would be an improvement over the dangerous incumbent.
A new secretary must obviously commit to a new direction on border security and immigration. Even with a new, less-radical DHS secretary, the ability of Congress to verify real policy changes, particularly in light of the massive ongoing border chaos, will not be easy. Nevertheless, the House GOP majority needs to extract pledges from any Mayorkas replacement that address asylum, parole, and pro-migration diplomacy.
First, on asylum: Current federal law already requires foreigners who enter illegally and request asylum to be detained until their case is adjudicated. When enforced, this policy is an effective deterrent to most illegal migrants who present frivolous asylum claims. Mayorkas has systematically undermined this critical deterrent; he overturned the highly successful “remain in Mexico” policy and overwhelmed detention capacity by urging millions of frivolous asylees to “surge to our border.”
A new secretary must send out new “do-not-come” messaging that is backed up by action, particularly by reimposing a real deterrence on those foreigners still crossing Mexico on their way to our southern border. Unfortunately, the Biden administration currently has neither the political will nor the diplomatic skill to restore President Trump’s “remain in Mexico” policy.
The best alternative strategy, therefore, is to vastly increase high-profile deportations. Carried out by ICE, deportation not only removes illegals, but is a highly effective deterrent as well as an easily verifiable metric. Removal flights can be massively and quickly ramped up, using military air bases such as the Lackland Air Force Base in south Texas. Moreover, ICE can carry out these removals without lawsuits and judicial interference that will hinder other measures.
In fiscal year 2023, the Biden administration carried out about 142,000 deportations, a low number in the face of millions of illegal entries. In contrast, in 2013, the Obama administration deported over 438,000 foreigners, showing what can be done even under a liberal Democrat president when the will is there.
The Republicans must demand that the new DHS secretary instruct ICE to carry out at least 100,000 deportations monthly, making it clear that illegals cannot stay here. A major focus in the budget deal, therefore, must be new resources for ICE removals, linked with a new DHS secretary who will carry out the mission. The Congress must resist Biden’s requests for more funding for “beds and accommodations” to house illegal migrants.
The Republicans must also address Mayorkas’s unprecedented abuse of “humanitarian and public interest parole” provision in the current law. Congress intended DHS to use this limited authority to grant small numbers of foreigners, only after case-by-case review, temporary admission to the United States for extraordinary reasons. Ignoring the clear intent of the law, Mayorkas has grossly abused this narrow exception to invent massive migration programs that are admitting hundreds of thousands of economic migrants from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, Ukraine, and Venezuela.
It must stop. The new DHS secretary must pledge to end these unlawful migration programs immediately, as well as terminate the routine use of parole for border jumpers. The new DHS secretary must pledge to keep all parole admissions from all countries, globally, to a small number, say no more than 10,000 a year, thereby restoring the original intent of the law.
The new DHS secretary must end Mayorkas’s open-border diplomacy. Mayorkas has joined with the State Department to advance the so-called “Los Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection,” thereby making the encouragement and facilitation of illegal migration part of U.S. foreign policy, particularly in the Western Hemisphere.
Under Mayorkas, DHS and State have set up migrant facilitation offices—called “Safe Mobility Offices”—in countries such as Colombia, Panama and others. They have lobbied foreign governments not to deter migrants moving north to the U.S. border. The new secretary must pledge to close these offices and remove DHS officials from all open-border activities across the hemisphere.
There is, of course, much more to be done than just these limited measures, but such effort must await a new president. For now, the top priority is that Mayorkas must go.