Mayorkas says he is ‘Focused on work’ after avoiding impeachment

Alejandro N. Mayorkas, the Homeland Security secretary, took no time for a victory lap after surviving a chaotic House impeachment vote this week. He skipped a flight to Las Vegas, where he outlined security preparations for the Super Bowl.

Impeachment, he insisted Wednesday, was not on his mind.

“The accusations are unfounded and I am focused on work,” said Mr. Mayorkas to reporters who peppered him with questions about the proceedings in Washington the day before.

After three years on the job, Mr. Mayorkas has learned to keep his head down through the drama, his confidants say. That skill may soon come in handy again, as House Republicans plan a second attempt to impeach the man who has become the face of one of the most divisive issues in American politics: the southern border.

“I think this is embarrassing for him and his family, but he is very focused on his job,” said Cecilia Muñoz, head of the White House Domestic Policy Council during the Obama administration. “For anyone who knows him at all, that’s not surprising.”

Mr. Mayorkas, 64, has come under fire from the moment he stepped into his role, particularly from Republicans who see chaos at the border as a useful political strategy in their efforts to capture the White House in 2024.

He has testified before Congress in public hearings more than twenty times, the most of any member of President Biden’s cabinet, as the number of people crossing into the United States has reached record levels. He is also the first Latin American to head the department; his family fled to the United States when he was a year old, fleeing the rise of communism in Cuba.

Mayorkas cited his upbringing in a January letter to Rep. Mark E. Green, Republican of Tennessee and chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, who led the impeachment charge.

“My respect for law enforcement was instilled in me by my parents, who brought me to this country to avoid a communist takeover of Cuba and allow me the freedoms and opportunities our democracy affords,” Mr. Mayorkas wrote. “My parents experienced such loss at the hands of authoritarianism that an American law enforcement officer stood as a tangible symbol of safety and the rule of law in our new home.”

Republicans from the House of Representatives claimed that Mr. Mayorkas should be impeached on the grounds that failure to enforce certain aspects of immigration law is a constitutional crime. But in the United States, the president and his administration have wide latitude to control the border, and Mr. Mayorkas did not exceed those powers.

Mr. Mayorkas rose to prominence in California as the United States Attorney for the Central District of California in 1998. During the Obama administration, he held key roles at the Department of Homeland Security, including as head of US Citizenship and Immigration Services from 2009 to 2013 when he oversaw the launch of a popular program that protects thousands of people who came to the United States as children. Later he was the deputy secretary of the Agency.

Angela Kelley, a former senior immigration adviser to Mr. Mayorkas, said his usual actions after the impeachment vote showed how he felt about the whole process.

“I think it signals that he’s got his head down and he’s doing his job and nothing he’s done is an impeachable offense,” she said.

Mr. Mayorkas was well aware that taking the job of department secretary would come with an intense level of scrutiny, especially after the Trump administration put immigration policy at the forefront of voters’ minds, Ms. Muñoz said.

“He knew when he took the job that it would be the subject of terrible politics,” she said. “It only gets worse every year. He knew what the problem would be and took the job with his eyes wide open.”

At a press conference in Las Vegas on Wednesday, Mr. Mayorkas brushed off questions about whether he would resign if Republicans get enough votes to impeach him in the future.

“No,” he said. “I would not.”

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