Republicans are blaming Mayorkas for their own immigration mess

It's not the Secretary of Homeland Security that's prevented Congress from passing immigration laws, but he's the one who may be impeached for it.


Republicans have spent three years railing against President Joe Biden for not continuing former President Donald Trump’s draconic crackdown on migrants at the southern border. Their favorite punching bag on that front has been Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, who has been the subject of multiple hearings in the House for his supposed “dereliction of duty.” Now, despite no evidence of any such “dereliction,” House Homeland Security Chairman Mark Green, R-N.C., announced Wednesday that his committee would hold a hearing next week to mark up articles of impeachment against Mayorkas.

The effort that the GOP has poured into gunning for Mayorkas isn’t just comical, but it also represents the total lack of scruples the party has when it comes to immigration. This is a group of very unserious people threatening to use a serious weapon despite knowing that it’s only for show. If Republicans are truly looking for whom to blame for chaos at the border and beyond, they should look in the mirror.

If Republicans are truly looking for whom to blame for chaos at the border and beyond, they should look in the mirror.

Republicans’ primary charge against Mayorkas is that he’s selectively applying the nation’s immigration laws. But Congress hasn’t passed new immigration laws in decades, leaving the system to weaken and buckle. It’s been almost a decade since the last bipartisan attempt at reform, and that effort was stymied by Republicans, not Democrats. Since then, conservatives have steadily clamped down on even gestures at major overhauls, decrying each one as a back door “amnesty” for undocumented migrants.

It should be welcome news for House Republicans that the ongoing efforts in the Senate to work out a border security compromise don’t include any pathway to citizenship — a Democratic requirement in past negotiations. But it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone else that House Republicans are still rejecting the idea of a compromise, holding out delusional hope that their preferred immigration bill can somehow be forced into law. It doesn’t help that many Republicans both on and off Capitol Hill, including Trump, are dead set against any possible easing of the political pressure on Biden. The former president already has reportedly successfully pressured Senate Republicans into backing off those compromise efforts entirely, leaving the issue on the table for the 2024 election.

Politicking aside, most Republicans want a return to the very Trump-era policies that artificially built up the pressure at the southern border. Trump’s agenda created a massive backlog of asylum claims that only began to be relieved under Biden. Even though Congress has approved no new resources to deal with the influx, Mayorkas is bound to follow both U.S. and international laws governing asylum. But rather than work with the administration or pressure Congress, GOP-led states have decided instead to follow Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s lead, focusing more on posturing statements and grandstanding deployments in defiance of both the executive branch and the Supreme Court.

Vice President Kamala Harris and others in the administration have repeatedly tried to counter the political attacks from the GOP by telling migrants approaching the border to turn back. Mayorkas has also instituted new rules for asylum claims: Last May, for example, the department began requiring all asylum-seekers to apply through a mobile app called CBP One. In announcing a new policy that same month in which all people who don’t use official border crossing locations will be “presumed ineligible for asylum,” Mayorkas repeated once again that “the border is not open” and that migrants “who do not use available lawful pathways to enter the U.S. now face tougher consequences, including a minimum five-year ban on re-entry and potential criminal prosecution.”

But the GOP keeps falsely claiming that the southern border is wide open and effectively lawless despite the number of Border Patrol agents deployed there quadrupling since 1992. The House passed a resolution last week condemning Biden’s “open-border policies,” with all Republicans and 14 Democrats voting in favor. A poll taken in September shows that the messaging is working: More than half of Americans believe that the border “is open and laws are unenforced.” And, crucially, there’s evidence that this disinformation has actually spurred more Central American migrants toward the southern border than would otherwise have attempted to make the trek.

The GOP keeps falsely claiming that the southern border is wide open and effectively lawless despite the number of Border Patrol agents deployed there quadrupling since 1992.

To be clear, even if Mayorkas was incompetent, the common interpretation of the impeachment clause among legal experts is that would fall below the “high crimes and misdemeanors” standard. “Impeachments are not a remedy for government officials who are simply bad at their jobs,” as the National Constitution Center put it. “It is a remedy for abuses of public office.” As a Cabinet member, Mayorkas is at least assumed to be executing the policies that the president is handing down to him, making it even harder to say that he’s the one who should be removed from office.

And yet House Republicans are plowing ahead with the first vote to impeach a Cabinet official since the 19th century. Should these articles make it out of committee, there’s no guarantee that they will pass on the floor, especially with Republicans holding the slimmest majority in recent history. If they do, though, it’ll be a real moment for the history books, an argument against the notion that the House can ever put facts over politics. Rather than spending so much time and energy trying to present Mayorkas as the demonic gatekeeper throwing open the doors of the country, imagine what they could do if they devoted that time to actually working with him to manage the crisis they helped create.