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US lawmakers inch towards impeachment of Alejandro Mayorkas

Alejandro Mayorkas
Alejandro Mayorkas has accused House Republicans of making "false accusations" as they move to impeach him

Republicans have taken another step towards impeaching Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas for his handling of the US-Mexico border.

A House of Representatives committee voted to recommend impeachment charges against Mr Mayorkas.

All Republicans were in favour, while all Democrats voted against. The full House could vote as early as next week.

If the move goes forward, Mr Mayorkas will become the first cabinet secretary to be impeached since 1876.

Opponents of the Biden administration accuse Mr Mayorkas of responsibility for record migrant arrivals.

More than 6.3 million migrants have entered the US illegally since 2021.

On Tuesday, the Republican-dominated House Committee on Homeland Security met to "mark up" articles of impeachment against Mr Mayorkas, a key procedural step taken before a bill advances to the floor of the wider House of Representatives.

At the outset of the meeting, committee chairman Mark Green - a Republican from Tennessee - accused Mr Mayorkas of not living up to his oath "to well and faithfully discharge the duties" of his office by allegedly failing to properly secure the US-Mexico border.

"He has wilfully and systematically refused to comply with the laws passed by Congress, and breached the trust of Congress and the American people," he said. "The results have been catastrophic, and have endangered the lives and livelihoods of all Americans."

Mr Mayorkas - who did not attend the hearing - hit back at the accusations.

In a seven-page letter released the same day, he said "false accusations do not rattle me" and outlined a number of steps taken by the Biden administration to enforce US laws at the border.

"The problems with our broken and outdated immigration system are not new," he wrote. "Our immigration laws were simply not built for 21st century migration patterns."

Mr Mayorkas also wrote that his parents came to the US from Cuba, which instilled in him a "reverence for law enforcement".

Mr Green called the letter "inadequate and unbecoming of a cabinet secretary".

Currently, Mr Mayorkas is working with the White House and a bipartisan group of senators to tighten border laws, which Republicans have demanded in exchange for agreeing to President Joe Biden's request for more aid for Ukraine and Israel.

The deal already looks doomed.

Following criticism from former President Donald Trump, front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, who called the deal a political gift to Democrats, many Republicans have withdrawn support for it.

Echoing similar Democratic sentiments, Maryland Representative Glenn Ivey said Republicans "know that there's a bill potentially that would give us new law to help us at the southwestern border".

"President Trump and many of the House Republicans are fighting to oppose that because they think it would give President Biden some benefit at the elections at the polling places," Mr Ivey said.

Bennie Thompson, the highest ranking Democrat on the committee, accused his Republican colleagues of "throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing what sticks" by pursuing a "sham" impeachment and "baseless political stunt".

If impeached by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, Mr Mayorkas would be the first cabinet-level official to go through the process since Secretary of War William Balknap in 1876 for his role in a kickback scheme. He was later acquitted by the Senate.

Even if convicted by the House, Mr Mayorkas is unlikely to be found guilty by the Democrat-controlled Senate.

When asked by reporters on this likely outcome, Mr Green told them it is "fine, if that's what they [the Senate] choose to do, but I have a duty to do".

Mr Green has said that the full House vote will happen "soon".

The controversial move to impeach Mr Mayorkas comes amid rising public concern over US immigration and the government's handling of its southern border.

A January poll conducted by CBS - the BBC's US partner - suggests that nearly half of Americans view the situation at the border as a crisis, with 63% saying that the administration should adopt "tougher" policies.

Immigration and border security have emerged as a primary electoral issue ahead of the November presidential election, with a Harvard Caps-Harris poll this month suggesting it has overtaken inflation and the economy as the top policy concern among US voters.

Republicans, particularly former President Donald Trump, regularly refer to "chaos" at the border in election speeches attacking Mr Biden.