The Effort To Impeach Secretary Mayorkas

Elections & Politics Policy Brief #123 | By: Abigail Hunt | February 19, 2024
Featured Photo taken from: www.bloomberg.com
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The political circus around Washington D.C. continues to bring new acts to the stage. Recently, House Republicans charged Alejandro Mayorkas, Secretary of U.S. Homeland Security, guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors for his alleged mishandling of the border crisis.

Appointed to the position of Secretary of U.S. Homeland Security in 2021, 62-year-old Cuban national Mayorkas was previously Deputy Secretary of the same department from 2013-2016.  From 2009-2013, Mayorkas was Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and prior to that, had a decades-long career in private law and law enforcement. His background in law enforcement, politics, and law, as well as his experience negotiating cyber security agreements, means that Mayorkas has the knowledge and experience to be well aware of whether or not he is breaking any laws. It is no shock to learn his trajectory began with employment as a federal prosecutor in California, as police, prosecutors, and politicians are birds of feather who flock together.

After this year, the most memorable thing about Mayorkas may be that he is one of only two Cabinet secretaries ever impeached. The last time it happened was in 1876. The reason for the outrage – Mayorkas is accused of failing to enforce immigration policies. Not enough migrants are being detained, Republicans complain.  Republicans excoriate Mayorkas for a humanitarian parole program which they believe bypasses necessary security review requirements. Democrats are offended on Mayorkas’ behalf, dismissing the charges as a political stunt. The House voted in favor of impeachment 214 to 213.

There was no such discord in Congress in 1876 – William Belknap, War Secretary under President Ulysses S. Grant, was charged with blatant corruption, including kickback deals which netted Belknap more than $20,000 (a pretty penny in that day and age). Politicians on both sides generally believed that was a bad move (at least when expressing their public opinion on the matter). On March 2nd, Belknap resigned in tears, attempting to “dodge the bullet,” but he was impeached anyway by a tenacious House later the same day. The Senate ultimately acquitted him through its failure to secure a 2/3rds vote for removal.

The New York Times reports that Senate Democrats plan a swift dismissal of Mayorkas’ charges. Although the House voted for impeachment, they have yet to formally present articles of impeachment to the Senate; House managers should do so in, as they would say in 1876, a fortnight. The same Constitutional impeachment clause that allows for the removal of the President if found guilty of “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors” would allow for the removal of Mayorkas as Secretary.

If Senate Democrats dismiss the charges against Mayorkas without trial or serious consideration, it is likely to stoke the fire of Republican fury through what they view to be a miscarriage of justice. In the unlikely event he is removed from his position, who would take his place in line as the next scapegoat to blame for the border fiasco?  In a matter of weeks, we should know, or at least have a good indication of, which way the wind blows for Mayorkas. The last Secretary got away with money that would today be at least three-quarters of a million dollars.  Mayorkas giving leniency to desperate Central and South American migrants who’ve just trekked thousands of miles, some with children and elderly, to request asylum at an openly hostile border seems less than mild by comparison. If only Mayorkas had stolen government funds to spend on private parties and lavish gifts rather than provide humanitarian aid to migrants in need, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation.

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