House Republicans accused Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas of facilitating the largest border crisis in U.S. history as well as lying under oath during a nearly four-hour House Committee on Homeland Security hearing on Wednesday.
Republicans pointed to the tens of thousands of pounds of fentanyl that have crossed the border as well as the continued surge in illegal immigration at the southern border since Mayorkas has been in charge.
"Ultimately, your oath requires you to secure our nation's sovereign border with Mexico and do anything necessary to stop the Mexican cartels from trafficking endless wave upon human wave of illegals into America," said Rep. Clay Higgins (R., La.). "Graveyards [are] filled from sea to shining sea with the bodies of American sons and daughters, dead from fentanyl. You have brought generational trauma upon our country."
Although the hearing was ostensibly about President Joe Biden's 2024 budget, future impeachment proceedings against Mayorkas loomed in the background. Mayorkas has been a top target in the Biden administration for Republicans, who pledged to impeach him after winning their House majority in 2022. Hours before Mayorkas appeared before the House, the New York Times reported that Rep. Mark Green (R., Tenn.), who chairs the Homeland Security Committee, told donors earlier this month that the House plans to file charges against Mayorkas in the near future. Republican leadership has thus far been mum on a timeline for Mayorkas's impeachment.
During the hearing, House Republicans repeatedly accused Mayorkas of losing "operational control" of the southern border, a phrase that gives a window into how Republicans will structure future impeachment proceedings. Under the 2006 Secure Fence Act, DHS must oversee "operational control," meaning the agency must prevent the unlawful entry of illegal immigrants and narcotics into the United States.
"[You were asked] under oath in the United States Congress if you had operational control … and you said, 'I do,'" Green said. "That is a false statement."
Republicans pointed to remarks made by Border Patrol chief Raul Ortiz last month that contradicted Mayorkas's assessment of the border. During a House hearing on immigration held in Texas, Ortiz said law enforcement lacks "operational control" of the southern border, much of which is controlled by "the cartels."
That assessment, Republicans charge, means that Mayorkas perjured himself in April 2022 when he testified that DHS has "operational control" of the southern border. In subsequent interviews and testimony, Mayorkas has been more vague on the topic. On Tuesday, Mayorkas said no administration has met the "operational control standard."
DHS did not respond to a request for comment.
Since Mayorkas took office, authorities have recorded approximately 5.5 million southern border crossings. Of those, nearly 400,000 unaccompanied have been alien children. Fentanyl seizures have also hit record highs as more than 100,000 Americans died from overdoses in 2021.
There are "1.2 million [illegal aliens] who have orders of removal, and yet your agency only removed 70,000 last year," said Rep. Michael Guest (R., Miss.). "I think that your agency is not enforcing the law, Mr. Mayorkas."
Mayorkas's hearing came on the heels of a Times report detailing an explosion of alien child labor across the United States since Biden took office. Since 2021, authorities have lost contact with more than 85,000 alien children who have been released from federal custody.
That report prompted a number of Republican senators during a separate hearing on Monday to call for Mayorkas's removal. Sen. Josh Hawley (R., Mo.) accused the secretary's policies of helping facilitate tens of thousands of alien children "to work as slaves."
Mayorkas has said on numerous occasions that he has no plans of stepping down from his post, despite Republican demands. The White House has also defended Mayorkas from attacks, with press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre praising his "real, lasting, and meaningful reform" of the immigration system.
During his Wednesday testimony, Mayorkas shrugged off Republican concerns about border security. Instead, he sought to assure committee members that the Biden administration policies are working as intended.
"It is my testimony that the border is secure and we are working every day, day and night, to increase its security," Mayorkas said. "The challenges that we are experiencing at the border cannot be overstated."