Explainer: Why did U.S. House Republicans impeach homeland security chief over border crisis?-Xinhua

Explainer: Why did U.S. House Republicans impeach homeland security chief over border crisis?

Source: Xinhua

Editor: huaxia

2024-02-15 21:27:30

BEIJING, Feb. 15 (Xinhua) -- One week after a failed impeachment vote, the Republican-held U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday narrowly voted to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, making him the first cabinet member to be impeached in nearly 150 years.

Mayorkas was impeached for "willful and systemic refusal to comply with the law" in enforcing border policy and for breaching public trust.

"Alejandro Mayorkas deserves to be impeached, and Congress has a constitutional obligation to do so," House Speaker Mike Johnson said in a statement after the vote.

Why did House Republicans push to impeach the homeland security secretary over the crisis at the southern border? What does this impeachment mean? What will happen next?


Immigrants have long tried to cross the U.S. southern border in search of a new life in the United States. Last December, the number of people arrested illegally crossing the border from Mexico into the United States reached a record high -- nearly 250,000. In fiscal year 2022, the U.S. Border Patrol encountered 2.2 million illegal border crossings.

Illegal immigrants are flooding the southern border of the United States, and the number of illegal crossings far exceeds the capacity of border officials to handle them, sometimes leading to the temporary closure of border crossings.

The surge of illegal immigrants has also had an impact on inland areas of the United States far from the border. Illegal immigrants heading to Democratic "sanctuary cities" such as Chicago, New York, Boston and Denver have strained city services there, prompting Democratic officials there to urge the Biden administration to take action.

Republicans blame it all on "dereliction of duty" by Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas and say he needs to step down because of it. They have frequently berated Mayorkas at hearings the House Homeland Security Committee has held on the border crisis since last year.

Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives say Mayorkas is not detaining enough illegal immigrants while implementing a humanitarian parole program.

They criticized the program as a violation of immigration laws by bypassing Congress and allowing in people who would otherwise not be eligible to enter the United States.

So all of this adds up to a protracted border crisis that has reverberated across the country. Republicans believe it was entirely Mayorkas' fault and warranted his impeachment.


The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) described the vote on Tuesday as advancing "without a shred of evidence or legitimate Constitutional grounds."

Republican legislators claimed that Mayorkas had not fulfilled his duties. However, both the Department of Homeland Security and congressional Democrats have dismissed the endeavors to impeach Mayorkas as politically driven maneuvers.

Mia Ehrenberg, a spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security, said in a statement Tuesday that the impeachment was done "without a shred of evidence or legitimate Constitutional grounds."

Calling the impeachment effort "bad politics and bad policy," Tom McClintock, one of the three Republicans who voted against the impeachment, stressed that House Republicans were attempting to overstep boundaries by advocating for Mayorkas' removal from office for implementing President Joe Biden's border policies.

Democrats and many of their legal experts argue that this is an issue for voters to decide, not an issue that meets the level of "high crimes and misdemeanors" required to impeach a cabinet official.

Biden on Tuesday slammed the House Republicans who voted in favor of impeaching Mayorkas, arguing that "history will not look kindly" on them, calling the two articles of impeachment filed against the DHS chief "baseless" in a statement released by the White House.

The president argued that GOP lawmakers backing Mayorkas' impeachment would be better served passing legislation that would give his administration "the tools and resources needed to address the situation at the border."


The U.S. Senate is expected to head to trial later this month after House Republicans impeached Mayorkas.

But the threshold for Senate conviction is much higher than for House impeachment.

While the House of Representatives needs only a simple majority to pass impeachment, the Senate must have an absolute two-thirds majority to convict.

Mayorkas said he is ready to defend himself in the Senate if it comes to a trial. In the meantime, he says he is focused on his job now and won't be distracted by politics.

House Republicans have attempted to leverage Mayorkas' impeachment to address their concerns regarding Biden's border policies. However, Republicans also played a role in killing a bipartisan agreement on border security and foreign aid.

The Senate introduced a 118-billion-U.S.-dollar bipartisan border bill on Feb. 4 that was believed to overhaul the asylum system with tougher standards and faster enforcement and give the president new powers to deport immigrants immediately when the immigration department is overwhelmed by too many asylum claims. The bill will also increase funding by 20 billion dollars for border issues.

The bill includes a new emergency authority that would allow the Department of Homeland Security to "shut down" the border if there are too many migrants trying to cross.

U.S. House Majority Leader Steve Scalise said the Senate border bill, which includes a major overhaul of the country's immigration system, will not even receive a vote in the House.

House Speaker Mike Johnson said that he would not submit the Senate bill to the House of Representatives for deliberation in its current form. He said the bill will only continue to allow a large number of illegal immigrants to enter the United States.