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Here comes the immigration show trial

Of all the issues Republicans will try to exploit, you can expect the ongoing chaos at the border to be front and center.

President Biden and Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, left, spoke with US Customs and Border Protection officers on the Bridge of the Americas border crossing between Mexico and the United States in El Paso, Texas, on Jan. 8.JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images

If the last week is any indication, Americans should brace for a chaotic House led by Republicans — plus an unhealthy and depressing amount of gaslighting.

Of all the issues Republicans will try to exploit, you can expect the ongoing chaos at the border to be front and center. Weirdly, the GOP is preparing to launch wide-ranging investigations into law enforcement and other agencies through a special judiciary subcommittee on what GOP lawmakers call the “weaponization of the federal government.” But what Republicans are really trying to do is weaponize their House majority to go on meaningless witch trials.


Here’s what not to expect: There won’t be any legislation on immigration reform, perhaps the most intractable and elusive issue of the past two decades. Instead, newly elected Speaker Kevin McCarthy and other Republicans will try to do a lot of deflecting.

McCarthy has already signaled his intention to investigate and impeach Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. In November, during a visit to the southern border in El Paso, Texas, McCarthy said Mayorkas should resign and if he doesn’t Republicans “will investigate every order, every action, and every failure.”

Republican US Representative Pat Fallon of Texas said he plans to file articles of impeachment against Mayorkas. “From perjuring himself before Congress about maintaining operational control of the border to the infamous ‘whip-gate’ slander against our border patrol agents, Secretary Mayorkas has proven time and time again that he is unfit to lead the Department of Homeland Security,” Fallon said in a statement to Fox News.

Perjuring? According to McCarthy, that’s because Mayorkas testified at a congressional hearing in November that the border is secure. And “whip-gate”? That’s the infamous incident in September 2021 when Border Patrol agents on horseback appeared to be whipping Haitian migrants near Del Rio, Texas. At the time, Mayorkas called the widely circulated photos “horrifying,” which caused Republicans to clutch their pearls and accuse Mayorkas of slandering border agents. But Mayorkas launched an internal investigation on the highly publicized incident, which eventually found no evidence that the patrol agents used whips to strike the migrants but did conclude the agents used unnecessary force and inappropriate language and acted in unprofessional and dangerous ways.


Apparently that’s all Republicans have against Mayorkas, who said he has no intention of resigning during an appearance on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday. “I’ve got a lot of work to do,” he said.

The sad, inevitable conclusion is that House Republicans are not interested in considering substantial and nuanced policy solutions to deal with “the greatest displacement of people since World War II in the Western Hemisphere,” as Mayorkas put it during his ABC appearance. “Our entire hemisphere is gripped with a migration challenge.”

But it’s not in the best interest of the GOP to acknowledge that challenge. Republicans want the border to remain a mess to rile up their right-wing base. Biden, along with Mayorkas, visited the border on Sunday — his first trip there since he assumed office. Biden had faced Republican criticism for not visiting the border sooner, but when he did on Sunday McCarthy dismissed the visit as a photo op. At least Biden showed up after announcing a new border enforcement plan, which has some elements to praise and some to dislike. For instance, the Biden administration made a deal with the Mexican government to send 30,000 migrants per month from Cuba, Nicaragua, Haiti, and Venezuela back across the border when they try to enter the United States illegally, which is a deal straight from Donald Trump’s immigration policy playbook.


Meanwhile, Republicans are insisting that the border is wide open, when in reality Trump’s pandemic-era Title 42 policy has been in place since Biden took office, which has allowed his administration to continue to expel the majority of migrants who cross the border illegally.

It’s classic Republican blame shifting. In the new House, the GOP is only going to be interested in seizing every fractious issue — inflation is another example — to blame on Biden and Democrats. Put another way: If Republicans were truly about seeking accountability on immigration, they would look at themselves and Congress, which has failed to fix the many ways America’s immigration system is broken. It’s why any impeachment effort led by House GOP members against Mayorkas reeks of political grandstanding at its worst.

Marcela García is a Globe columnist. She can be reached at marcela.garcia@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @marcela_elisa and on Instagram @marcela_elisa.