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Alejandro Mayorkas, Secretary of Homeland Security, Survives Impeachment Vote over Handling of Southern Border

The House GOP blamed Mayorkas for an uptick in illegal border crossings while refusing to entertain bipartisan immigration reform, a risky move that backfired at the last second

<p>Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty</p> DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas arrives to testify at a Senate hearing titled "Threats to the Homeland" on Oct. 31, 2023

Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty

DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas arrives to testify at a Senate hearing titled "Threats to the Homeland" on Oct. 31, 2023

Alejandro Mayorkas narrowly avoided becoming the second Cabinet secretary in U.S. history to be impeached by the House of Representatives, following a dramatic 214-216 vote on Tuesday.

Immediately after Democrats lost their House majority in the 2022 midterms, Republicans signaled that they would begin investigating Mayorkas — who assumed control of the Department of Homeland Security in 2021 — over a surge in illegal migrant crossings at the southern U.S. border.

Mayorkas, 64, faced two charges from the House: willful and systemic refusal to comply with the law and breach of public trust. On Tuesday, four GOP representatives voted "no" to impeach Mayorkas.

Had the vote gone the other way, Mayorkas would've gone on trial before the Senate, which would have ultimately voted to convict or acquit. Removing Mayorkas from office would have required a two-thirds vote in the Democrat-led Senate — an unlikely result for a case that many experts have decried as political theater.

Related: Why House Republicans Moved to Impeach Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas

<p>Ting Shen/Bloomberg via Getty</p> Alejandro Mayorkas — accused by a Republican-led House committee of shying away from providing testimony — has testified before Congress 27 times, according to the DHS, more than any other Cabinet member

Ting Shen/Bloomberg via Getty

Alejandro Mayorkas — accused by a Republican-led House committee of shying away from providing testimony — has testified before Congress 27 times, according to the DHS, more than any other Cabinet member

DHS responded to the impeachment articles when they were first released in late January, calling the effort "a distraction from other vital national security priorities and the work Congress should be doing to actually fix our broken immigration laws."

For more than two decades, presidential administrations have faced challenges securing the border as Congress has repeatedly failed to tackle immigration reform with meaningful legislation. Without help from Congress, presidents have had to work within their limited powers and funding to tackle the issues of the moment — which has proved particularly challenging for President Joe Biden and the DHS amid record numbers of migrant encounters along the southwest border.

Related: Biden Administration Asks FEMA to Help with Increase of Migrant Children at the Southern Border

In recent weeks, the Biden administration has negotiated with Republicans and Democrats in the Senate to strike up a bipartisan border deal that could spawn the most significant changes to the immigration system in more than a decade and offer relief for local governments facing an influx of migrants.

But while the Senate initially had breakthroughs, House Republicans expressed that they were uninterested in working with Democrats to find solutions, even after Biden vowed to "shut down" the border once legislation is passed.

Republican Sen. Kevin Cramer, a hardline Donald Trump supporter who has railed on Biden's border policies, explained in a recent radio interview that a “border deal that actually reduced the flow of illegal immigration, that would be good for [Biden] politically," as he accurately predicted that Trump would urge his party to reject any proposed bill.

<p>SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty</p> President Joe Biden and DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas at the FEMA headquarters on Aug. 31, 2023

SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty

President Joe Biden and DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas at the FEMA headquarters on Aug. 31, 2023

On Jan. 30 Mayorkas wrote a letter to the House Committee on Homeland Security's Republican chairman, Tennessee Rep. Mark Green, offering a last-ditch defense against the impeachment articles and calling on the committee to shift their priorities before sending them to the House floor.

"The problems with our broken and outdated immigration system are not new," Mayorkas said in the letter, citing a backlog of immigration cases that built during the Trump administration. "Our immigration laws were simply not built for 21st century migration patterns."

Related: 7,500 Caravan Migrants Continue March to U.S. as President Trump Blames Democrats for Outdated Immigration Laws

He continued, "We need a legislative solution and only Congress can provide it. I have been privileged to join a bipartisan group of United States Senators these past several months to provide technical and operational expertise in support of their efforts to strengthen our country's border security. These efforts would yield significant new enforcement tools and make a substantial difference at the border."

Telling Green that the DHS has routinely provided information to the House demonstrating how they are enforcing the law — and noting that a host of scholars have criticized the impeachment charges as failing to meet the constitutional requirements — Mayorkas added, "It is our responsibility to the American people to work through our differences and try to reach solutions together. The bipartisan group of United States Senators is currently doing just that."

Related: 2023 Was Congress' Least Productive Year in Modern History amid House GOP Turmoil

Alex Brandon/AP/Shutterstock Alejandro Mayorkas
Alex Brandon/AP/Shutterstock Alejandro Mayorkas

Mayorkas made history in 2021 as the first Latino and first immigrant to lead the Department of Homeland Security.

Born in Havana, Mayorkas and his family sought refuge in the United States following the Cuban Revolution.

"My parents experienced such loss at the fisted hands of authoritarianism that the American law enforcement officer stood as a tangible symbol of safety and the rule of law in our new home," he wrote in his letter to Chairman Green. "When I was a boy, my mother would have me jump out of the back seat of our family's station wagon, approach a police officer in uniform, extend my hand, and say thank you. It was because of everything America meant and gave to my family that I was motivated to enter public service."

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At age 39 Mayorkas became the youngest U.S. attorney, prosecuting criminals for federal offenses in the Central District of California, and was later tapped by President Barack Obama to lead U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

In the final years of Obama's administration, Mayorkas was elevated to deputy secretary of Homeland Security, setting the stage for Biden's Cabinet nomination after the Trump years.

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