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Will Rep. Salazar Put Partisan Politics Ahead of National Security and the Constitution in Sham Impeachment Vote?

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House Republicans are barreling ahead with their sham impeachment proceedings against Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, a Cuban American refugee whose family fled Nazi Germany. Despite zero evidence of high crimes or misdemeanors, zero testimony from fact witnesses, and loud pushback from legal experts, former GOP officials, and leading voices, a vote is expected in the House in the coming weeks.

It’s a bogus proceeding meant to politicize immigration and the southern border rather than actually address it. But it’s also a dangerous effort. The main drivers behind this push are extremists who are mainstreaming white nationalist conspiracies that make us less safe and have been tied to deadly violence. Right now, with expulsions and resignations, House Republicans hold 219 seats in the House while Democrats have 213. Currently, Majority Leader Steve Scalise is on an extended medical leave and Rep. Hal Rogers is still recovering from a recent car accident. So, the margin for Republicans is extremely slim. 

The loss of just a few GOP votes thwarts this dangerous, politically driven process. That means Rep. María Elvira Salazar (R-FL) stands to be a deciding voice in whether or not it succeeds. 

Rep. Salazar has in the past failed to stand up to the extremists in her party, last year providing a critical vote to help deliver the passage of H.R. 2, also known as the Child Deportation Act. While Rep. Salazar once appeared to cast some doubts on the futility of Republicans pursuing proceedings against Secretary Mayorkas, she again appears to be in lockstep with her caucus even as this effort could put a target on the backs of immigrant communities, including her own constituents in Florida.

During past Capitol Hill testimony, Secretary Mayorkas repeatedly warned about domestic terrorism that could be inspired by great replacement and “invasion” language used widely by House Republicans and other far-right politicians, with real world instances of deadly violence already seen in places like El Paso, Buffalo, and Pittsburgh. In Florida last year, a racist gunman who professed a hatred of Black people murdered three shoppers in Jacksonville. Florida’s governor, Ron DeSantis, had previously refused to condemn Nazi activity in the state.

It also shouldn’t be lost that Republicans are teeing up a vote based on antisemitic tropes to impeach an official whose family fled the Holocaust, and eventually came to the U.S. as refugees from Cuba. Mayorkas’ history as a refugee, as well as his history-making confirmation as the department’s first Latino secretary, was raised by a number of Cuban American leaders from Miami, who said in a letter urging GOP leadership to drop the impeachment effort against Mayorkas that they were “dismayed” at what they were seeing “happening in the halls of Congress.”

“No one is claiming immigration in our country isn’t in need of dramatic and long overdue reform, especially not the Secretary,” former Republican Party of Florida Chairman Al Cardenas and others wrote. But instead of working with Mayorkas on solutions, “they are doing everything within their power to tarnish a good man’s reputation, willing to sacrifice our nation’s safety and security to do so. Not only that, but this effort to impeach Secretary Mayorkas effectively undermines the Constitution, which expressly forbids impeachment based on policy differences.”

In her recent column, the Miami Herald’s Fabiola Santiago writes that Republicans “have created such a raucous atmosphere around the DHS Secretary, a member of Biden’s Cabinet that the most searched thing about Mayorkas on Google questions his immigration status: Is Alejandro Mayorkas an American citizen?’” When the prominent GOP backers of impeachment have already claimed that Mayorkas is intentionally orchestrating the “invasion” and “replacement” of Americans, it’s the sort of stuff that only helps further stoke a dangerous political climate.

Add to this the legal scholars and even a former Republican DHS Secretary, Michael Chertoff – all denouncing Republicans for moving forward – and it is quite a list of conservative voices saying the impeachment effort goes too far. 

Republicans hold an incredibly slim majority in the House, making Salazar a key decider in this campaign to impeach Mayorkas because of a difference in policy. Will she defend the rule of law by opposing this sham political effort, or choose party over country and help normalize dangerous rhetoric that puts a target on the backs of communities in her district and across the nation because of their skin color and the accent in which they speak?