Alejandro Mayorkas: House votes to impeach homeland security secretary

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Watch: Republicans cheer after Mayorkas’ impeachment

By Bernd Debusmann Jr and Jacqueline Howard
BBC News

The House of Representatives has narrowly voted to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, making him the first cabinet member to face impeachment in nearly 150 years.

Many Republicans blame Mr Mayorkas for an unprecedented influx of migrants at the US-Mexico border.

The Republican-led chamber voted 214 to 213 for the measure, after the first attempt failed last week.

The issue now heads to the Democratic-led Senate, where it is likely to fail.

President Joe Biden on Tuesday called the vote a “blatant act of unconstitutional partisanship” and a “political stunt”.

Opponents of Mr Mayorkas accused him of not living up to his oath to “well and faithfully discharge the duties” of his office by failing to do more to secure the border.

The vote was largely divided along party lines, with 210 Democrats voting against the impeachment, along with three Republican representatives: Tom McClintock of California, Ken Buck of Colorado and Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin.

The three defectors also voted against the first attempt to impeach Mr Mayorkas, saying that impeaching someone who had not committed a serious crime would weaken the constitutional penalty and do little to address the crisis at the border.

More than 6.3 million migrants have entered the US illegally since 2021, making immigration a divisive and politically contentious issue ahead of the November election.

The issue is a major focus of Donald Trump’s campaign to oust Mr Biden from office.

In a statement released shortly after the vote, Mr Biden defended Mr Mayorkas, calling him “an honourable public servant”.

“He has upheld the rule of law faithfully and has demonstrated a deep commitment to the values that make our nation great,” the president said.

Republicans have accused homeland security secretary Alejandro Mayorkas of failing to fulfil his duties to secure the US border

A spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security, Mia Ehrenberg, accused Republicans of spending their time “trampling on the constitution” instead of “working to solve the serious challenges at our border”.

Republican Speaker of the House Mike Johnson said Mr Mayorkas “deserves to be impeached”.

Over the course of two hearings in January, Republicans charged Mr Mayorkas with failing to enforce immigration policies and lying about the border’s security.

Democrat Al Green, of Texas, appeared unexpectedly after being wheeled into the chamber wearing hospital scrubs to vote against the impeachment. He had been in an emergency room having surgery.

House Majority Leader Steve Scalise also cast his vote after missing the last vote because of cancer treatment. His return gave Republicans the margin needed to secure the vote.

Impeachment – a process outlined in the US Constitution – marks the first step in removing a federal official for high crimes or misdemeanours.

It requires a simple majority in the House, then a trial in the Senate.

A two-thirds majority is needed for that to succeed.

The impeachment effort is unlikely to pass as the Senate is narrowly controlled by the Democrats.

The House is due to present the impeachment articles to the Senate on 26 February.

The last cabinet secretary to be impeached was Secretary of War William Belknap in 1876, although he resigned shortly ahead of the vote.

A January poll conducted by CBS – the BBC’s US partner – suggests that nearly half of Americans view the situation at the border as a crisis, with 63% wanting “tougher” policies at the border.

The US Customs and Border Protection agency on Tuesday said border crossings were down 50% in January, attributing the dramatic drop to “seasonal trends, as well as enhanced enforcement efforts”.

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