By Ted Hesson and Susan Heavey
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -A Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives committee next week will advance an effort to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas over allegations he has been derelict in his duty of managing the U.S.-Mexico border, the committee announced on Wednesday.
The House Homeland Security Committee will hold a hearing on Jan. 10 related to the impeachment allegations with witnesses to be announced in the coming days, it said in a press release.
Republicans have slammed Democratic President Joe Biden over border control as record numbers of migrants have been caught crossing the U.S.-Mexico border illegally, with criticism focused on Mayorkas, Biden’s top border official.
Republicans blame Biden for rolling back some restrictive border policies of Republican former President Donald Trump, his party’s leading candidate to challenge Biden in the November presidential election.
If the Republican-controlled House impeaches Mayorkas, he is highly unlikely to be convicted in a trial in the Senate, which Democrats control by a slim margin.
Meanwhile, a small, bipartisan group of senators on Wednesday held a two-hour negotiating session on ways to bolster security along the southwestern border with Mexico. Independent Senator Kyrsten Sinema left that meeting telling reporters “We’re closing in” on a deal.
Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday near the border in Eagle Pass, Texas, Johnson said the U.S. had reached “a breaking point” with illegal immigration. Video footage showed several migrants, including young children, crossing the Rio Grande into the U.S. as the event took place.
Representative Mark Green, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee and one of more than 60 Republicans on the border trip, said Mayorkas intentionally encouraged illegal immigration through permissive policies.
“The greatest domestic threat to the national security and the safety of the American people is Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas,” Green said.
Biden officials point to record levels of migration and forced displacement in the Western Hemisphere and have called on Congress to provide more funding for border security.
White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre said during a press briefing that Biden supports Mayorkas and called the allegations “a political stunt.”
The advancing allegations against Mayorkas come after the House voted in December to authorize an impeachment inquiry into whether Biden improperly benefited from his son Hunter Biden’s foreign business dealings even though they had yet to find evidence of wrongdoing by the president.
The number of migrants attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border illegally spiked in December, straining resources of U.S. border authorities and receiving communities. The arrivals have receded in the past week, paving the way for the United States to reopen legal border crossings on Thursday.
U.S. and Mexican officials have agreed to strengthen efforts to curb the record migration, with Biden’s cabinet scheduled to meet with Mexican leaders in Washington later in January.
(Reporting by Ted Hesson, Susan Heavey and Richard Cowan in Washington; Additional reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt and Doina Chiacu in Washington; Editing by Mark Porter, Jonathan Oatis, Bill Berkrot and Daniel Wallis)