Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas holds a press conference at a U.S. Border Patrol station on Jan. 8, 2024 in Eagle Pass, Texas.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas holds a press conference at a U.S. Border Patrol station on Jan. 8, 2024 in Eagle Pass, Texas. John Moore/Getty Images

House fails to impeach DHS secretary

Alejandro Mayorkas is no longer in peril after the failed vote. If the measure had passed, it would have been the first time a cabinet secretary had been impeached in nearly 150 years.

The House on Tuesday failed to impeach the head of the Homeland Security Department, with a handful of Republicans joining Democrats to defeat the effort to pass such a resolution for just the second time in U.S. history. 

The chamber rejected DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas’ impeachment with in a 214-216 vote, with four Republicans joining all Democrats in saying the inquiry failed to lay out any crimes he committed. It would have marked the first cabinet impeachment since 1876, when the House did so for President Grant's Secretary of War William Belknap. 

The House rejected two articles of impeachment against Mayorkas: the first accused the secretary of failing to carry out a bevy of federal statutes related to immigration. DHS and congressional Democrats have repeatedly noted that no department secretary has met those standards, such as detaining every migrant who crosses into the country. The second article concerned allegations Mayorkas violated his oath of office, lied to Congress and obstructed the committee’s investigation.

Had the articles moved to the Senate, the Democratic majority was nearly certain to not convict and remove Mayorkas anyway. Senate leadership had not yet unveiled its plans regarding if or when it would have held a trial for the secretary. 

Congressional Democrats, the Biden administration and Mayorkas himself have blasted the effort as vindictive, politically motivated and setting a dangerous precedent. They have accused Republicans of failing to spell out any specific “high crimes and misdemeanors” that are required for impeachment under the Constitution and said their colleagues simply disagreed with President Biden’s approach to immigration and border security policy.

DHS has said under Mayorkas' leadership it has ramped up migrant removals to levels not seen since 2015 and detained every migrant possible using the number of detention beds Congress has funded. Applying the committee Republicans' logic consistently, it added, would have required the impeachment of every DHS secretary since the department's formation. DHS has provided 20,000 pages of documents to the current Congress, it said, including 13,000 to the Homeland Security panel.

Republicans have suggested after investigating Mayorkas for months, and as migrant encounters at the U.S.-Mexico border has reached unprecedented levels, that impeachment was the only means to hold the secretary accountable. 

“Secretary Mayorkas is the very type of public official the Framers feared,” Rep. Mark Green, R-Tenn., who chairs the House Homeland Security Committee, said on the House floor on Tuesday. “Someone who would cast aside the laws passed by a co-equal branch of government, replacing those with his own preferences—hurting his fellow Americans in the process.”

Democrats have derided Republicans for impeaching Mayorkas over allegations of insufficient border security while simultaneously tanking a bipartisan bill that would significantly boost border security. 

“What is happening here today is a travesty,” Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., the top Democrat on the Homeland Security panel, said in his own floor remarks. “It is an affront to the United States Constitution, it will do nothing to solve challenges at our border, and it is a baseless attack on a dedicated public servant.”

Reps. Tom McClintock, R-Calif., and Ken Buck, R-Colo., and Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., were the only Republicans to vote against Mayorkas' impeachment, with Rep. Blake Moore, R-Utah, joining them for procedural reasons. Republicans proposed a motion to reconsider the resolution, meaning the could bring it back up for a vote at another time.