House Republicans release impeachment articles against Mayorkas amid push to remove him over the border

(WASHINGTON) — House Republicans on Sunday released two articles of impeachment against Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas — accusing him of “willful and systemic refusal to comply with the law” and “breach of public trust” and taking another step toward a historic attempt to remove him from office while he denies wrongdoing.

“These articles lay out a clear, compelling, and irrefutable case for Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas’ impeachment,” House Homeland Security Chairman Mark Green, R-Tenn., said in a statement.

Green went to allege that Mayorkas “has willfully and systemically refused to comply with immigration laws enacted by Congress. He has breached the public trust by knowingly making false statements to Congress and the American people, and obstructing congressional oversight of his department.”

Though Mayorkas has long been a focus of Republican criticism of the White House’s border policies — testifying multiple times before Congress — the Department of Homeland Security maintains that no high crimes or misdemeanor have ever been committed under the Biden administration.

DHS officials in a new memo dismissed the GOP-led investigation in the House as unconstitutional and “evidence-free” and sought to rebut the allegations in detail.

Administration officials also point to a number of legal experts, some brought forward by the House Homeland Security Committee, who say the constitutional grounds for impeachment have not been met.

Green said on Sunday that Mayorkas had to be held accountable.

“The results of his lawless behavior have been disastrous for our country,” he said, in part. “Empowered and enriched cartels, mass fentanyl poisonings, surges of terror watchlist suspects, more criminal illegal aliens causing harm in our communities, and traumatized and exploited migrants will be Secretary Mayorkas’ open-borders legacy.”

The new articles of impeachment are set to be reviewed in committee on Tuesday and then would need to be adopted by the full chamber in order to put Mayorkas on trial in the Senate and potentially remove him.

House Speaker Mike Johnson said Friday that such a vote will occur “as soon as possible.”

Only one Cabinet secretary has ever been impeached by the House: William Belknap, who resigned as then-President Ulysses Grant’s secretary of war shortly before the House voted against him in 1876.

Belknap was accused of “corruption blatant even by the standards of the scandal-tarnished Grant administration,” according to Senate history, but didn’t receive the two-thirds majority of senators needed to convict.

The first of the two articles of impeachment against Mayorkas accuses him of facilitating a “catch and release scheme,” arguing that he allowed migrants to be unlawfully released into the U.S. without ensuring processes were in place for deportation.

While immigration enforcement has been strained in recent months by large numbers of migrants crossing illegally, the Biden administration has responded by returning or removing more migrants than any prior administration, according to DHS.

The Border Patrol has made significantly fewer apprehensions along the southern border in recent weeks, a decline from record-setting levels seen in December.

The first impeachment article goes on to accuse Mayorkas of having circumvented the law by paroling migrants into the U.S. “en masse in order to release them from mandatory detention.”

Although the Biden administration has significantly expanded the use of humanitarian parole, the authority has been used by several prior administrations, DHS maintains. For example, the U.S. offered parole to Vietnamese refugees after the fall of Saigon in the 1970s and to Iraqi Kurds in the 1990s.

Democrats say Republicans are trying to impeach Mayorkas over policy disputes, which legal experts have said are not grounds for impeachment.

“Legal disputes over the exercises of executive authority are a commonplace in every administration,” University of Missouri School of Law professor Frank Bowman told the House Homeland Security Committee at an impeachment hearing earlier this month. “And every president wins some and loses others. If the mere existence of such disputes were impeachable, every president and every Cabinet officer would be impeachable many times over.”

No prior administration has ever detained every unauthorized border crosser, DHS has noted, and even hard-line restrictions like those implemented under former President Donald Trump were bound by resource limits that resulted in many getting temporarily released into the U.S.

“What is glaringly missing from these articles is any real charge or even a shred of evidence of high crimes or misdemeanors – the Constitutional standard for impeachment,” the ranking Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee, Bennie Thompson, said in a statement. “That should come as no surprise because Republicans’ so-called ‘investigation’ of Secretary Mayorkas has been a remarkably fact-free affair.”

House Republicans in the second article accuse Mayorkas of lying to Congress and obstructing congressional oversight, claiming he lied when he said the border was “secure” and that DHS had “operational control.”

DHS officials said that while the definition of “operational control” under federal law means zero illegal entries into the U.S., that standard has never been met by any administration and Border Patrol has sought to redefine it instead as “the ability to detect, respond to, and interdict border penetrations in areas deemed as high priority.”

The Biden administration also maintains that Mayorkas has complied with the House committee’s requests.

The second impeachment article goes on to accuse Mayorkas of rolling back a series of Trump-era policies including the controversial “Remain in Mexico” program, construction on the southern border wall and international agreements that pressured Central American countries to hold asylum seekers.

ABC News’ Luke Barr and Lauren Peller contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.