US House impeaches Biden’s immigration chief Mayorkas over border crisis

Republican charge against Alejandro Mayorkas is part of push to put migration at the centre of November’s election.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas speaks during a news conference about security for NFL's Super Bowl 58 football game, in Las Vegas, Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2024
Days before his impeachment, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas speaks during a news conference [AP Photo]

Lawmakers in the United States House of Representatives have impeached Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas at a second attempt.

Mayorkas was removed in a tight vote of 214-213 on Tuesday, as the Republican-led House blamed President Joe Biden’s immigration chief for a surge in illegal entries from Mexico. The impeachment helps to set the stage for November’s presidential elections, which Republicans hope to centre on the border issue.

Lawmakers passed two articles that accused Mayorkas of “willful and systemic refusal” to enforce immigration law and “breach of public trust”. The Democrat is the first cabinet secretary to be impeached in nearly 150 years.

The move by Republican leaders followed closely on the heels of a failed attempt last week to remove Mayorkas. Having wrongly anticipated how many lawmakers would be present on each side, they had lost by one vote.

US President Joe Biden called the move, the latest in a series of Republican attacks on his administration, a “political stunt”.

“History will not look kindly on House Republicans for their blatant act of unconstitutional partisanship that has targeted an honourable public servant,” he said.

Biden highlighted Mayorkas’s backstory. A Cuban immigrant who came to the US with his family as a political refugee, he spent more than two decades “serving America with integrity in a decorated career” that saw him work as a US attorney in the Justice Department before becoming Secretary of Homeland Security, the president said.

House Speaker Mike Johnson doubled down on Republican criticism of the impeached official: “Since this secretary refuses to do the job that the Senate confirmed him to do, the House must act,” he said.

Bad faith

The vote came amid a showdown between the House and Democrat-controlled Senate over a surge in illegal immigration from Mexico. Apprehensions on the border hit a record 10,000 per day in December.

House Republicans have been accused of acting in bad faith in the impeachment, especially after coming out against a bipartisan deal hammered out in the upper chamber that would have imposed the toughest asylum and border policies in decades.

“Republicans with genuine concerns about the border should want Congress to deliver more border resources and stronger border security,” said Biden, criticising their rejection of the bipartisan plans.


Impeachment is meant to be a sanction for treason, bribery and other “high crimes and misdemeanours,” according to the constitution.

Seen as the political equivalent of an indictment, the rebuke is largely symbolic, however, as Mayorkas is certain to be acquitted at his trial in the Senate.

The upper house is compelled to open a trial, although it could vote to dismiss the articles, dissolve the trial, or refer the articles to a committee.

Twenty-five legal experts called the push “utterly unjustified” in an open letter and were echoed by constitutional scholars who have also spoken in Congress against Donald Trump’s impeachments, including Jonathan Turley and Alan Dershowitz.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies