Hundreds of migrants attempt to reach the United States border to seek humanitarian asylum in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico on Jan. 02, 2024. Despite the efforts of the Texas National Guard, the migrants managed to traverse the river and overcome obstacles, including the barbed wire installed by the authorities.

Hundreds of migrants attempt to reach the United States border to seek humanitarian asylum in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico on Jan. 02, 2024. Despite the efforts of the Texas National Guard, the migrants managed to traverse the river and overcome obstacles, including the barbed wire installed by the authorities. David Peinado/Anadolu via Getty Images

House GOP is obstructing progress at the border by blocking staffing surge, White House says

Republicans move forward with DHS secretary impeachment proceedings as the administration engages in border negotiations.

The White House is pointing the finger at House Republicans as the two sides continue to pass blame and draw attention to record-setting numbers of migrants arriving at the southern border, with the Biden administration saying the lawmakers are standing in the way of efforts to alleviate the situation. 

Administration officials are ramping up the rhetoric as dozens of House Republicans on Wednesday traveled to Texas to visit the border to highlight what they see as President Biden’s failings. The comments, which called out House leaders for blocking consideration of emergency funding that would provide for the hiring of thousands of federal border and immigration personnel, also came ahead of the start of impeachment hearings into Homeland Security Department Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, which lawmakers announced on Wednesday would proceed next week. 

Customs and Border Protection encountered more than 300,000 migrants illegally crossing the southwest border in December, according to multiple reports, setting an all-time monthly record. That was up from around 240,000 encounters in the first two months of the fiscal year. Biden has requested $13.6 billion in emergency funds to hire nearly 6,000 immigration and border security-related employees at DHS and the Justice Department as part of a larger package that would also provide tens of billions of dollars in foreign assistance. The White House is still engaged in negotiations with a bipartisan group of senators on that package and additional policy changes that would seek to restrict migration, with administration officials and congressional negotiators continuing to work through their differences over the holidays and into the new year. 

“Instead of joining the Biden administration and members of both parties in the Senate to find common ground, [House] Speaker [Mike] Johnson,” [R-La.,] is continuing to block President Biden's proposed funding to hire thousands of new Border Patrol agents, hire more asylum officers and immigration judges, provide local communities hosting migrants additional grant funding, and invest in cutting edge technology that is critical to stopping deadly fentanyl from entering our country,” Andrew Bates, a White House spokesman, said on Wednesday. 

He added Republicans previously approved spending cuts for fiscal 2024 that would have resulted in Border Patrol losing 2,000 positions. CBP and other agency officials have consistently warned their resources are strained and their workforces are overwhelmed as the administration has reassigned various groups of employees to assist with efforts at the border. 

“Actions speak louder than words,” Bates said. “House Republicans’ anti-border security record is defined by attempting to cut Customs and Border Protection personnel, opposing President Biden’s record-breaking border security finding and refusing to take up the president’s supplemental funding request.” 

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Wednesday said House Republicans were "literally blocking the president's efforts to do something" at the border, saying they were instead engaging in political games and political stunts. 

Raj Shah, an aide to Johnson, countered that Biden’s request for more funds would not “stop illegal immigration,” but instead allow the president to continue his policies that have “undermined security at every turn.” Johnson led the delegation of around 60 House Republicans to the border on Wednesday. Some conservative lawmakers have said the trip and war of words is insufficient, instead calling for more drastic action. Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, this week wrote a letter to his colleagues demanding they shut down the government—excepting Border Patrol—unless Republicans’ policy demands for immigration reforms are met. 

Bates condemned the suggestion, which several conservatives echoed on Wednesday, saying House Republicans were "once again compromising America's national security and economic growth with shutdown threats."

Mayorkas on Wednesday echoed the White House’s campaign for more resources for his agency, saying the funding would help “address the situation at the border.” 

“More Border Patrol agents, more asylum officers, more immigration judges, more investment in technology to battle the scourge of fentanyl,” Mayorkas said on MSNBC. “We are focused on fixing the challenge, on fixing that problem. We are focused on solutions”

The secretary suggested the administration would add personnel to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to address the asylum claim backlog “through our regulatory authorities,” but said ultimately Congress must address the issue. 

A spokesperson for the House Homeland Security Committee confirmed the panel will initiate impeachment proceedings for Mayorkas with a hearing Jan. 10. The House voted to send the impeachment inquiry to the committee after it in November rejected an effort to bring the matter up for a vote on the floor. Rep. Mark Green, R-Tenn., who chairs the panel, said he and his colleagues have been investigating Mayorkas for months and they would hold the secretary accountable for “the unprecedented crisis at the southwest border.” While Republicans’ complaints over Mayorkas primarily amount to policy disputes, Green said the secretary has failed to enforce the law and uphold his oath of office. 

Mayorkas’ impeachment would mark an exceedingly rare step. Wiliam Belknap, secretary of war under President Grant, is the only cabinet secretary to be impeached after the House did so in 1876. He resigned before facing trial in the Senate. Even if the latest effort proves successful, there is little path for Republicans to find the two-thirds majority required for conviction in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

The secretary said he would cooperate with the impeachment efforts, while also continuing to participate in border negotiations and fulfilling his other duties.