Why not impeach everyone?
WWILLIAM BELKNAP the only cabinet official in American history to suffer the embarrassment of congressional impeachment. As for Belknap, Ulysses S. Grant’s secretary of war, he deserved it: to maintain his reputation for big, violent parties and well-dressed women, the secretary of war gave trade monopolies at an army fort to a friend he bribed generous to him. For “essentially abusing his high office to his desire for private gain”, the House of Representatives voted to impeach him in 1876.
Almost 150 years later, Alejandro Mayorkas, the homeland security secretary, may be the second cabinet official to be fired—if Republicans were going to have their way, that is. Compare the two cost sheets, and the latter becomes clear. Mr. Mayorkas is not accused of grand corruption or treason but a political crime: he has overseen immigration policy.
It should be noted that there is no chance that Mr. Mayorkas will be fired. Articles of impeachment must first be passed by a majority of the House, which may even be difficult for the Republicans to do as they control by narrow margins. Passing these articles would encourage the prospect of a trial that would be held in the Senate. And the chances of conviction there, which would require a two-thirds majority and therefore at least 18 Democratic voters, are lower than the chances of paying for a border wall in Mexico. construction So, why do you care at all?
The southern border is indeed in bad shape, as Republicans point out. In December 2023, American immigration authorities reported more than 300,000 encounters with migrants – the most of any month on record. Those who arrive and seek asylum cannot be held in detention due to a lack of detention beds and immigration judges; many are released into the country with a court date years in advance, which is sometimes avoided. Even if the severity of the crisis is at its highest, there is a problem of illegal migration over the US– The Mexican border is decades old. Presidents like Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan had problems with it.
But in their articles of impeachment, the Republicans laid all the blame at the feet of Mr. Mayorkas. “Largely because of his illegal behavior, millions of aliens have entered the United States illegally each year with many remaining illegally,” they charge in their first article. The second article says he violated the public trust by testifying to Congress that the border was secure, when, they argue, he should have known it was not yes
Upon closer inspection, the allegations are even more tenuous than they first appear. One complaint is that Mr. Mayorkas reversed the Migration Policy Protocols, which were put in place by President Donald Trump, requiring asylum seekers to stay in Mexico while they waited for the consideration of the their issues. The complaint cites language from a federal appeals court that Mr. Mayorkas apparently ignored. That only seems harmful because it leaves out that the court’s decision was appealed to the High Court, which allowed the policy change.
Rock and parole
Another gripe is the administration’s use of “parole authority,” which allows them to grant backstops from deportation on a case-by-case basis. Republican arguments that this was implemented prematurely (by allowing in 30,000 Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans and Venezuelans per month) are certainly plausible. But complaints about government inaction usually do not rely on empirical evidence that shows more action. In contrast, the articles of impeachment argue that Mr. Mayorkas has not done enough to prevent the smuggling of fentanyl by pointing out that the authorities are increasing; that it is not doing enough to stop migrants by pointing to more feelings about the border; and that it does not sufficiently deter illegal migrants by identifying depleting export case reserves. At their heart, the Republican charges are about competence in office and the appropriate use of executive powers, which are usually dealt with through court cases, not impeachment.
The irony is that House Republicans are pursuing this course of action when, on the other side of the Capitol, more serious Senate Republicans are trying to negotiate with Democrats to pass a bill that will ease the pressure on the Mexican border. Among the proposed provisions are limits on the president’s parole authority, an increase in the number of border patrol officers and immigration judges, and stricter criteria for judging whether people have credible cases. those seeking asylum.
The bill is more important than just the border: Democrats are hoping a border deal would sway Republicans enough to agree to send more aid to Ukraine as part of a joint spending package. If achieved, it would be a rare triumph of pragmatism over partisanship. Unsurprisingly, Mr Trump has adopted a whip against any forthcoming border negotiations, following the cynical reasoning that border chaos is better for his prospects than development. Pursuing an impeachment trial to complain about the border, instead of the legislation that could fix it, would be an empty spectacle rather than a ruling. Unfortunately, that sounds like an apt summary of the House Republicans’ mission statement. ■
Stay on top of American politics with Checks and Balance, our weekly subscriber-only newsletter, which examines the state of American democracy and the issues that matter to voters.