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Minority leader Kevin McCarthy in the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday called on Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas to resign over the government’s border policies and promised to launch investigations next year that could result in impeachment.
“We will use the power of the wallet and the power of subpoena. Let me be clear: those responsible for this disaster will be held accountable,” McCarthy said at a news conference in El Paso. “If Secretary Mayorkas does not resign, House Republicans will investigate every order, every action and every failure to determine whether we can launch an impeachment inquiry.”
Republicans have made border security one of their main points of attack against the Democrats and the Biden administration — which will only increase next year as Republicans poised to take control of the House. US Border Patrol last month recorded the highest number of migrant arrests ever at the Southwestern border, with nearly 2.4 million encounters for the fiscal year.
After traveling along the border with members of the Texas Republican delegation, McCarthy also said he would hold congressional hearings on border security at the border next year if he becomes speaker in the House. Republicans nominated McCarthy for the speakership last week, but the final vote isn’t until January.
U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, R-Texas, wrote to Mayorkas last month warning him that impeachment could be possible if illegal crossings do not decrease. Senator Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, also signed the letter.
In a statement Tuesday, the Department of Homeland Security said Mayorkas has no intention of resigning and is proud to advance the department’s mission.
“The Department will continue our work to enforce our laws and secure our border as we build a safe, orderly and humane immigration system,” the statement said. “Congressmen can do better than point the finger at someone else; they should come to the table and work on solutions to our broken system and outdated laws, which have not been revised in over 40 years.”
Having congressional hearings outside of Washington is not without precedent. Members occasionally schedule field hearings during “state work periods” when members are in their own districts, and Democrats have scheduled field hearings this year to highlight environmental and infrastructure issues. But the use of field hearings for border issues raises the visibility of the fact that Republicans have goaded Democrats over an issue that even many Democrats feel their own party has not adequately addressed.
McCarthy’s bid as speaker has also taken on a challenge from the right wing of the Republican conference, further incentivizing him to intensify his message. McCarthy said on Tuesday that “we never do impeachment for political purposes” and that any impeachment would be subject to a thorough investigation.
McCarthy made his remarks during a Tuesday visit to the El Paso border with fellow Republican Representatives Tony Gonzales, Dan Crenshaw, Brian Babin and August Pfluger — all Texans. Representatives Mark Green, R-Tennessee, and Kat Cammack, R-Florida, also joined.
Most of the visit was closed to the media. But at one point in the early afternoon, McCarthy could be seen from across the border, passing under a highway overpass, looking out over the Rio Grande. He was accompanied by border police officers and people taking pictures with their mobile phones. On the other side of the river, a group of migrants, many of whom were staying in tents along the river, waved their arms at him. Some shouted, “Let us in” or “We want to work.”
A migrant present, Abelardo Chacón, had spent the past month and a half in Ciudad Juárez. He said he crossed over to Texas hoping to get to Miami, but they “threw me out.” He said he didn’t know what to make of McCarthy’s visit because “I honestly don’t know who he is.”
“But if he came, God willing, he had a good reason,” said Chacón. “Looking for a solution – to at least let in those who really want to work and do things right.”
Lawmakers later served a Thanksgiving meal to Border Patrol agents.
Republicans on the Texas border have called for more resources for border police officers, who they say are overworked and have low morale. Crenshaw is bidding to chair the House Homeland Security Committee next year, which is supposed to oversee border security issues.
Senate Republicans made a similar visit to the border in March, with Senators John Thune and John Barrasso, second- and third-rank Republicans, joining Cruz and several other members. The senators wrote to President Joe Biden afterwards, imploring him to advance policies to secure the border.
Republicans are calling on the administration to reintroduce a controversial policy under President Donald Trump that forced asylum seekers to await their case in Mexico. Asylum seekers can currently enter the United States to await their hearings, which can take years from their initial entry. Several Republican attorneys general also urged a federal judge on Monday to uphold Title 42, a Trump-era measure that allows the administration to deport migrants to contain the spread of COVID-19. A court order is on track to lift Title 42 later next month.
“With Title 42 potentially ending, we’re bracing for a tsunami,” McCarthy said Tuesday.
Texas Democrats have dismissed Tuesday’s border trip as fearmongering and xenophobia, with few effective policy proposals.
“It’s a broken record,” US Representative Sylvia Garcia, D-Houston, said in an interview Tuesday. ‘They’re going to the border. They dress in their camouflage suits. They take pictures with some of the Guardsmen who [Gov. Greg] Abbott has there. They are all photo ops. Time is up for photo ops and visits. Now is the time to act.”
Garcia stressed the need to reform immigration policies to allow for more legal avenues for immigration and to streamline asylum hearings so applicants don’t have to wait years in legal uncertainty. Both are targets that a handful of frontier Republicans have said they’re willing to work across the aisle for. San Antonio Republican Gonzales said on Tuesday he has called on the Biden administration to find a bipartisan border policy and invited Biden to visit the border.
Garcia also pushed for comprehensive reforms to allow recipients of Deferred Action for Child Arrivals to remain in the country. In March 2021, the U.S. House passed the Dream and Promise Act, which would grant permanent resident status to many DACA recipients. The Senate has only a few legislative weeks left in the current congressional session to pass the bill, and members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus are lobbying hard for the upper chamber to prioritize it.
Senate Democratic leaders expressed optimism about passing the bill, with Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, telling reporters last week that at least four Republicans would likely cross over and vote in favor of the bill. Democrats need 10 Republicans to overcome the filibuster and vote to pass the bill.
Ivan Pierre Aguirre reported from El Paso and Ciudad Juárez.