April 18, 2024

US Senate rejects bid to oust homeland security chief Alejandro Mayorkas

US Senate rejects bid to oust homeland security chief Alejandro Mayorkas

The Democratic-held US Senate rejected a Republican-led bid on Wednesday to oust President Joe Biden’s immigration chief over his handling of the southern border with Mexico.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, 64, was impeached in February by the Republican-majority House of Representatives.

Republicans are seeking to make border security a key issue in November’s election and the impeachment came amid a showdown between the House and Senate over curbing a surge in illegal immigration, which hit a record 10,000 apprehensions a day at the US-Mexico border in December.

Republican lawmakers accused Mayorkas of “willful and systemic refusal” to enforce immigration law and “breach of public trust,” making him the first cabinet secretary to be impeached in nearly 150 years.

The move set up a trial in the Senate, where Democrats hold a 51-49 majority.

But the Senate swiftly disposed of the two articles of impeachment on Wednesday, rejecting them along party lines on the grounds they were unconstitutional.

The White House welcomed the move, saying the Senate has “rightly voted down this baseless impeachment.”

“President Biden and Secretary Mayorkas will continue doing their jobs to keep America safe and pursue actual solutions at the border,” spokesman Ian Sams said.

“Congressional Republicans should join them, instead of wasting time on baseless political stunts while killing real bipartisan border security reforms.”

The US president, vice president, cabinet ministers and federal judges can be impeached for treason, bribery, and “other high crimes and misdemeanors.”

Though the unprecedented impeachment over a policy issue took place in February, it wasn’t until Tuesday that House impeachment managers made the ceremonial walk to present the articles to the Senate in person.

– ‘The Senate’s integrity’ –

House Republicans have been accused of acting in bad faith, especially after coming out against a bipartisan deal hammered out in the Senate that would have imposed the toughest asylum and border policies in decades.

Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer had pledged to do everything possible to quickly squelch the impeachment proceedings.

“For the sake of the Senate’s integrity, and to protect impeachment for those rare cases we truly need it, senators should dismiss today’s charges,” Schumer said earlier Wednesday on the Senate floor.

Sixty-seven votes would have been needed in the 100-member Senate to remove Mayorkas from office.

Most of the lawmakers who spearheaded the fight against Alejandro Mayorkas are close to former Republican president Donald Trump, Biden’s likely opponent in November.

At his campaign rallies, Trump often mentions horrific murders committed by migrants, insisting the United States is in the throes of a crime wave perpetrated by people entering the country illegally.

But crime statistics from major US cities and studies conducted by outside experts do not indicate such a phenomenon.

Alejandro Mayorkas repeatedly rejected the allegations against him, calling them “baseless” and decrying what he called political score-settling.

The House has only ever impeached one other cabinet official — secretary of war William Belknap in 1876 — and that was over serious allegations of corruption. He resigned before the proceedings could reach their conclusion.