Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas responds to lawmakers' questions during a Senate subcommittee hearing in May. Republican lawmakers are calling for Mayorkas to resign too.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas responds to lawmakers' questions during a Senate subcommittee hearing in May. Republican lawmakers are calling for Mayorkas to resign too. Amanda Andrade-Rhoades/For The Washington Post via Getty Images

Republicans Applaud a Top DHS Official's Dismissal, But Say the Administration Shouldn't Stop There

The head of Customs and Border Protection resigned at the administration's request.

Republican lawmakers on Tuesday expressed rare appreciation for a Biden administration decision: the removal of one of their biggest foes. 

After initially refusing to step down when asked by administration officials to do so, now-former Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Chris Magnus resigned from his post on Saturday. Republicans had called for his ouster following reports that he was disengaged on the job and amid record levels of encounters with migrants on the southern border. At a hearing before the House Homeland Security Committee, Republican members thanked Homeland Security Department Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas for heeding their call. 

“I applaud you for removing him,” said Rep. Michael Guest, R-Miss. “I thought he did a terrible job.” 

He added, like several of his colleagues, that he would like to see additional officials fired: “I hope there are other people that you will remove,” Guest said. 

Several Republicans met the news of Magnus’ resignation with calls for Mayorkas to step down. Rep. Lance Gooden, R-Texas, tweeted on Monday that "accountability would be DHS Secretary Mayorkas joining" Magnus in leaving the agency. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said Magnus was simply a "fall guy" and that Mayorkas should be impeached. At Tuesday’s hearing, Rep. Jake LaTurner, R-Kan., asked the secretary if he had discussed his resignation with anyone in the administration and Mayorkas said he had not. 

“I hope you have that conversation very soon,” LaTurner said. 

In a statement over the weekend, the White House said President Biden “appreciates Commissioner Magnus’ nearly forty years of service and the contributions he made to police reform during his tenure as police chief in three U.S. cities.” Biden thanked Magnus for his service at CBP and wished him well. Magnus had gone public in an interview with the Los Angeles Times that he had been asked to step down but would not do so, but ultimately offered his resignation a few days later. In a statement last month, Magnus also demonstrated no willingness to step down from his role. 

“I’m not here to back down to the predictable challenges from those people, but instead to make real improvements within our agency that will benefit our employees and the public,” he said.

Troy Miller, a career executive, is now serving as acting commissioner, a title he held before Magnus’ confirmation. Biden’s next nominee for the position will face a difficult confirmation process, though Democrats maintaining control of the Senate in last week’s midterms will provide a pathway for the selection to get through. Dozens of House Republicans have already supported a resolution to impeach Mayorkas and will ramp up their pressure to do so next year when, in all likelihood, they control the chamber. 

Mayorkas said DHS is taking significant steps to reduce the number of migrants arriving at the border—which reached 2.4 million in fiscal 2022, an all-time record inflated by a temporary policy that allowed migrants to make repeated trips into the United States—such as through new policies for legal immigration for Venezuelan immigrants and an interagency initiative to crack down on human smugglers. He also called on Congress to meet the Border Patrol’s budget request to fund 300 new agents and to reform the asylum process. 

In response to questioning from Rep. Clay Higgins, R-La., Mayorkas said he would not step down before the next Congress is sworn in and any suggestion otherwise was a “false rumor.” Higgins then accused Mayorkas of orchestrating an effort to retaliate against Trump-supporting Border Patrol agents and of “suppressing” exculpatory evidence that supported employees who had been accused of misconduct. The secretary said he did not know what Higgins was referring to and the congressman declined to elaborate, adding only an ominous warning that he would find out.