House Republicans on Sunday released two articles of impeachment against Alejandro N. Mayorkas, the homeland security secretary, charging President Biden’s top immigration official with refusing to uphold the law and breaching the public trust in his handling of a surge of migration at the U.S. border with Mexico.
Leaders of the House Homeland Security Committee laid out their case against Mr. Mayorkas ahead of a Tuesday meeting to approve the charges, paving the way for a quick House vote as soon as early next month to impeach him. It would be the culmination of Republicans’ attacks on Mr. Biden’s immigration policies and an extraordinary move given an emerging consensus among legal scholars that Mr. Mayorkas’s actions do not constitute high crimes and misdemeanors.
The push comes as House Republicans, egged on by former President Donald J. Trump, dig in against a bipartisan border compromise Mr. Mayorkas helped to negotiate with a group of senators, which Mr. Biden has vowed to sign. House G.O.P. lawmakers have dismissed the agreement as too weak and argued that they cannot trust Mr. Biden to crack down on migration now when he has failed to in the past.
The charges against Mr. Mayorkas, should they be approved by full the House, are all but certain to fizzle in the Democratic-led Senate, where Mr. Mayorkas would stand trial and a two-thirds majority would be needed to convict and remove him. But the process would yield a remarkable election-year political spectacle, effectively putting Mr. Biden’s immigration record on trial as Mr. Trump, who has made a border crackdown his signature issue, seeks to clinch the Republican presidential nomination to run against him.
The first impeachment article essentially brands the Biden administration’s border policies an official crime. It accuses Mr. Mayorkas of willfully and systematically flouting laws requiring migrants to be detained by carrying out “catch and release” policies that allow some to stay in the United States pending court proceedings and others fleeing certain war-torn and economically ravaged countries to live and work in the country temporarily. Immigration laws grant the president broad leeway to do both.
The second article charges Mr. Mayorkas with lying to Congress about whether the border was secure and obstructing lawmakers’ efforts to investigate him.
“These articles lay out a clear, compelling and irrefutable case for Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas’s impeachment,” Representative Mark Green, Republican of Tennessee and the chairman of the House Homeland Security panel, said in a statement. “Congress has a duty to see that the executive branch implements and enforces the laws we have passed.”
The Biden administration and Democrats have defended Mr. Mayorkas as having acted legally and truthfully, arguing that he complied with the G.O.P.’s investigations fully even before they opened an impeachment inquiry. They have also slammed the impeachment as a political exercise, accusing Republicans of scapegoating Mr. Mayorkas as a favor to the hard right instead of working with them on bipartisan solutions to mitigate what leaders in both parties consider a border crisis.
Republicans “are abusing Congress’s impeachment power to appease their MAGA members, score political points and deflect Americans’ attention from their do-nothing Congress,” Representative Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, the senior Democrat on the panel, said in a statement, adding, “The House must reject this sham resolution.”
The charges are being rolled out as leading Republicans and Democrats labor to salvage the bipartisan border security deal emerging in the Senate, which would make it harder to claim asylum, increase detention capacity and force a freeze on crossings if encounters with migrants rise above an average of 5,000 per day over the course of a week.
Mr. Biden has pledged to “shut down the border” if Congress sends him the compromise, while Mr. Trump has pressured G.O.P. lawmakers to oppose it as insufficient. Speaker Mike Johnson has said that the deal is probably “dead on arrival” in the House, promising instead to put the impeachment articles against Mr. Mayorkas on the floor “as soon as possible.”
House leaders have been threatening for over a year to hold Mr. Mayorkas personally responsible for a surge of migrant crossings and drug trafficking across the southern border with Mexico. Their efforts accelerated in recent weeks, after months in which Republican leaders seemed unable to muster enough support in their own ranks.
The shift took place after Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, Republican of Georgia, tried to force a snap impeachment vote, a move that fell flat when a group of more mainstream Republicans and Democrats voted instead to refer the matter to the homeland security panel.
The committee rushed through impeachment proceedings this month, holding only two hearings and interviewing no federal officials — including Mr. Mayorkas himself — before its G.O.P. members unanimously recommended moving forward with the charges.
The articles seek to blame Mr. Mayorkas for the surge of migrants arriving at the southern border in recent years and trying to enter the United States without a visa. They accuse him of ushering even people with criminal records into the country and refusing to deport those with removal orders, while misrepresenting the situation at the border by telling Congress his department had “operational control.”
Mr. Mayorkas has previously explained that Border Patrol agents use a different definition of “operational control” than appears in the law. He has defended his policies by arguing that the department detains and removes unlawful migrants to the fullest extent that limited resources will allow, and uses parole authority to manage unprecedented pressure at the southern border humanely.
Republicans raced through the investigation without ever issuing a subpoena for Mr. Mayorkas to testify in his own defense, revoking an invitation for him to appear in person after a scheduling disagreement and instructing him instead to submit a written statement within 10 days of the final hearing on Jan. 18.
The G.O.P. said that deadline would expire on Sunday, but Democrats and representatives for Mr. Mayorkas argue that he has until Wednesday, the day after the panel is expected to approve the charges against him.
Democrats say the impeachment process has been riddled with corner-cutting by Republicans, whose witnesses consisted of grieving mothers of victims of brutal crimes committed by undocumented immigrants and three state attorneys general who are suing Mr. Mayorkas. And they reject the substance of the charges against Mr. Mayorkas, noting that legal experts argued during testimony to the panel that the complaints against him amounted to a policy dispute, not constitutional crimes.
“What is glaringly missing from these articles is any real charge or even a shred of evidence of high crimes or misdemeanors — the constitutional standard for impeachment,” Mr. Thompson said in his statement. “Republicans’ so-called ‘investigation’ of Secretary Mayorkas has been a remarkably fact-free affair,” he added.
House Republicans have rejected the criticism, contending that the Constitution’s instruction to impeach over “treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors” does not tie their hands.
“His lawless behavior was exactly what the framers gave us the impeachment power to remedy,” Mr. Green said of Mr. Mayorkas.
Should Mr. Mayorkas be impeached, he would become only the second cabinet secretary in U.S. history to suffer that fate. The last one, William W. Belknap, the secretary of war under Ulysses S. Grant, was impeached in 1876 on allegations of corruption and taking part in a kickback scheme. He was later acquitted by the Senate.