ESTRICH: How not to fix the immigration crisis

No one — or almost no one — can deny that there is an immigration crisis in America. New legislation is needed, including more funding for a fair and effective system for controlling the border and handling the asylum process. In the Senate, key Republicans and Democrats are at least talking together about how to deal with the problem.

Not so in the House.

Last week, the House committee on Homeland Security raced to complete hearings on the impeachment of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas, promising to bring charges against him by the end of the month. They wrapped up the hearings without testimony from the secretary himself, who, when he asked for a more convenient date to testify, was told to submit a written statement. Nor did they hear from anyone else from the Biden administration or from any constitutional experts who might have pointed to any “high crimes and misdemeanors” — the constitutional standard — that might justify impeachment.

According to the committee’s chairman, Mark Green, a Republican from Tennessee, “The truth is that Secretary Mayorkas has disregarded court orders, laws passed by Congress and has lied to the American people. … Who wants a secretary that can just disregard the fundamental pillars of the Constitution? We cannot tolerate that, whether they are a Republican or Democrat.”

But neither Green nor any other member of the committee could cite any “high crimes or misdemeanors” committed by Mayorkas, nor could they point to any precedent for using impeachment — an extraordinary remedy — as the tool for resolving what is essentially a policy dispute with the administration.

Impeachment requires a two-thirds vote in the Senate, which will simply not happen. It is a time-consuming process that will solve nothing. As Rep. Bennie Thompson, the ranking Democrat, pointed out, “This isn’t a real impeachment; it’s a predetermined, preplanned, partisan political stunt,” one that no one in Congress expects will result in Senate conviction. “You cannot impeach a Cabinet secretary because you don’t like a president’s policies,” Thompson argued.

But you can try, which is what Republicans on the committee are apparently united in doing, not because it will change anything but because it will satisfy their hard-line base and score political points. It’s a tactic that is no more effective than putting migrants on buses, as the governors of Florida and Texas have done, and shipping them off to New York and Los Angeles and other cities for Democratic mayors to deal with.

No state — and no city — should be expected to deal with what is in truth a national problem. Democrats need to recognize the policy failure at the border, the worsening problems of illegal immigration and drug trafficking at the border. It is a human crisis as well as a political one, and Biden will pay for it at the polls if it’s not addressed. But the Republicans, by resorting to impeachment and holding aid to Ukraine hostage, are playing partisan politics rather than doing anything constructive to address the underlying policy challenges. As Princeton professor Deborah Pearlstein testified, at the invitation of Democrats on the committee, “Impeachment will have no impact on resources available to the border, and it will have no impact on the policies pursued by this administration at all.”

What Congress needs to do is legislate, not posture. Mayorkas is part of a bipartisan effort by Senate Democrats and Republicans to come up with legislation that will address issues of asylum and detention, as well as funding for border enforcement. Democrats need to acknowledge the failures at the border and deal with them. Republicans need to stop playing games and do the work that they were elected to do. Going after the scalp of Mayorkas solves nothing at all.