Republicans push impeachment of Biden immigration chief

Republicans push impeachment of Biden immigration chief

WASHINGTON (AFP): US Republicans announced impeachment proceedings Wednesday against Joe Biden’s homeland security chief over the worsening border crisis, as they seek to cement immigration as a major issue in November’s presidential election.

Up to 10,000 migrants have been detained daily of late after crossing illegally from Mexico in what Republicans describe as a humanitarian disaster, while the White House and lawmakers have failed to agree on reforms to stem the influx.

Republicans in Congress, who concluded a probe into Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas in December, accuse the Democrat of creating a national security emergency by ignoring immigration policy.

No impeachment vote has been scheduled, but House Homeland Security Committee chairman Mark Green said an initial hearing would held next Wednesday.

“Our investigation made clear that this crisis finds its foundation in Secretary Mayorkas’ decision-making and refusal to enforce the laws passed by Congress, and that his failure to fulfill his oath of office demands accountability,” he said.

A majority of the House would be required to vote that Mayorkas had committed “high crimes and misdemeanors,” prompting a Senate trial that would boot him from office if two-thirds of senators voted to convict.

That is seen as virtually impossible, however, as 51 of the 100 members in the upper chamber are Democrats.

The border issue unites the fractious Republican Party, but even in the House finding the votes for impeachment could still be a challenge, as the Republican majority has narrowed to just two votes.

Speaker Mike Johnson sought to galvanize the rank-and-file by taking around 60 members to the frontier town of Eagle Pass, Texas, on Wednesday, where they toured a border patrol facility and spoke to locals.

“Since the time that President Biden took office the administration has done next to nothing to protect the border. But we’ve all seen with our own eyes, they have opened the border wide to the entire world,” Johnson told reporters.

“It’s estimated that nearly 170 countries have people coming in and flowing across this border… And these are not people who are fleeing and looking for asylum that are in fear for their lives in their home countries.”

– Record crossings –

The proceedings will present a headache in an election year for Biden, who faces his own Republican-led impeachment inquiry over unfounded allegations of corruption, and whose low approval ratings on immigration are among his biggest weaknesses.

Just 38 percent of registered voters in a December Harvard CAPS-Harris poll said they approved of the Democratic president’s handling of immigration, down from 46 percent a month earlier.

Border agents said Tuesday a monthly record of 302,000 migrants were encountered by authorities after crossing illegally in December.

In Eagle Pass, Johnson called on Biden to reinstate the abandoned Trump-era “remain in Mexico” policy keeping asylum seekers out of the country until their court appearances, which he suggested would reduce illegal entries by 70 percent.

The Democratic National Committee accused Republicans of undermining efforts to boost border patrols and strike a deal on immigration, while the Homeland Security Department called the impeachment drive a “baseless political exercise.”

The Mayorkas announcement came with the White House and senators from both parties in talks on border security and asylum reforms, with Republicans conditioning aid to war-torn Ukraine on the passage of an immigration bill.

Negotiations have focused on tightening the rules for asylum seekers and expanding expedited removals, with both sides hoping to have a proposal to circulate next week.

Johnson has said he won’t accept anything less than the hardline border and immigration bill passed last year by House Republicans, a non-starter in the Senate.

Texas governor Greg Abbott, a staunch Republican, has sought to take the immigration debate nationwide by sending thousands of migrants to Democratic-led northern cities.

Mayors in New York, Denver and Chicago have pressured Biden to take urgent action.

Abbott also signed a bill last month that would allow state police to arrest and deport migrants who cross illegally into the United States from Mexico.

The Justice Department filed a suit against Texas on Wednesday arguing that the bill known as SB4 is unconstitutional and only the federal government has the authority to regulate immigration.