After hours and hours of debate stretching into the early morning hours of Wednesday, House Republicans moved one step closer to impeaching Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas over conditions at the U.S.-Mexico border.

The GOP-led Homeland Security Committee approved two articles of impeachment in a 18-15 party-line vote. The full House will now consider whether to make Mayorkas just the second Cabinet official in American history to be impeached.

What You Need To Know

  • House Republicans moved one step closer to impeaching Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas over conditions at the U.S.-Mexico border

  • The GOP-led Homeland Security Committee approved two articles of impeachment in a party-line vote

  • Democrats call the proceedings a sham ordered up by Donald Trump, the Republican presidential front-runner

  • Democrats argue that Republicans should instead be working with the Biden administration to secure the U.S.-Mexico border

One article accuses Mayorkas of “willful and systemic refusal to comply with the law” for his handling of migrant detention and parole. The other charges the Homeland Security chief with “breach of public trust” for allegedly making false statements and obstructing congressional oversight.

“Today is a grave day,” Rep. Mark Green, R-Tenn., the committee’s chair, said. “We have not approached this day or this process lightly. Secretary Mayorkas’ actions have forced our hand. We cannot allow this border crisis to continue.”

Mayorkas defended himself in a letter to the panel early Tuesday morning. He wrote that problems with the immigration system predated his tenure, listed a series of actions his department has taken aimed at easing the flood of migrants to the border and repeated his call for Congress to pass meaningful immigration reform — noting he has been involved in bipartisan talks in recent weeks.

Mayorkas also pushed back on claims that he has not been responsive to oversight attempts. He argued he has testified before Congress 27 times and agreed to appear during the committee’s impeachment proceedings but Green’s office did not respond to his request to find a date that worked for both.

“I assure you that your false accusations do not rattle me and do not divert me from the law enforcement and broader public service mission to which I have devoted most of my career and to which I remain devoted,” Mayorkas wrote.

Democrats on the committee said Republicans are pursuing impeachment for political reasons. They accused GOP lawmakers of trying to remove Mayorkas based on policy differences and argued none of their allegations meet the constitutional standard of “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”

“This is a terrible day for the committee, the United States Constitution and our great country,” Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, the panel’s top Democrat said. “Republican members of Congress sworn to support and defend the Constitution are rejecting the framer’s clear intent and over two centuries of precedent in favor of a sham impeachment.”

Rep. Seth Magaziner, D-R.I., argued that every administration has released migrants into the country to await immigration hearings because they have lacked the resources to detain all of them. And he said Republicans’ claims that Mayorkas misled Congress are based on subjective terms such as whether the border is secure or the administration has operational control of it.

“The case here is so thin on constitutional grounds that it’s laughable,” Magaziner said.

But Republicans insisted Mayorkas has committed impeachable offenses.

“Secretary Mayorkas is the very type of public official the framers feared — 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,” Green said.

Republicans and Democrats spent a portion of the hearing debating the Supreme Court’s June 2023 ruling in which the justices ruled Texas and Louisiana did not have the legal standing to challenge a Biden administration border policy.

Green said Elizabeth Prelogar, the Biden administration’s solicitor general, argued that, in the event of “dramatic abdication of statutory responsibility,” it was up to Congress, not the states, to take action, including impeachment.

But Rep. Glenn Ivey, D-Md., noted that in an 8-1 ruling, conservative Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote that the Constitution gives the executive branch broad discretion to enforce the laws and that the executive branch typically lacks the resources needed to arrest or deport all noncitizens covered by federal immigration laws.

In his opinion, Kavanaugh listed tools available to Congress “to analyze and influence those policies” — oversight, appropriations, legislation and Senate confirmation. He did not mention impeachment, Ivey said.

The Homeland Security Committee has held two impeachment hearings against Mayorkas. The first featured testimony from the Republican state attorneys generals of Missouri, Montana and Oklahoma, who blamed Mayorkas’ policies for problems in their states related to migrants. They also testified that they believed Mayorkas’ failure to enforce laws and defiance of court orders warranted impeachment.

The second hearing included two mothers, one whose daughter died from a fentanyl overdose and the other who was killed by an undocumented immigrant and suspected MS-13 gang member.

At both hearings, Democrats called law experts who testified that they did not think Mayorkas’ actions met the constitutional threshold of impeachment.

A majority vote in the House is needed to impeach Mayorkas. Two-thirds of the Democratic-led Senate would need to convict him in order to remove him from office.

The only Cabinet official ever to be impeached was Secretary of War William Belknap in 1876 over corruption allegations. The Senate acquitted him.