In parliamentary politics – and in our own country’s Congress – government and party leaders require the confidence of their members to continue governing. For leaders, this often requires a delicate balancing act. You have to be particularly skilled at navigating challenges, weighing risks, acting decisively and owning mistakes. Too many miscalculations leave your members vulnerable, and a series of mistakes could cost you your leadership role if your members subject you to a motion of no confidence.
The United States is not a parliamentary system, yet parliamentary procedure drives day-to-day politics, particularly in congressional leadership and at the department and agency level. A cabinet secretary who is not skilled at navigating challenges, acting decisively or weighing risk is not fit for their role. When they refuse to accept responsibility for their mistakes, it is up to the president – their boss – to judge whether they have confidence in their secretary to continue performing the duties of their office.
Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Alejandro Mayorkas sadly checks all of these boxes, and President Joe Biden must review whether he is fit to continue in his role.
Further, I argue that on these four metrics, Biden should not have continued confidence in Mayorkas and should remove him from his role.
Mayorkas has navigated the challenges of the current border crisis with the skill of a galley chef steering a cruise liner in a hurricane. The Senate confirmed Alejandro Mayorkas as DHS secretary in early February. In January – before his tenure – Customs and Border Protection (CBP) apprehended 78,443. Since Mayorkas’ confirmation, CBP apprehended over 100,000 illegal aliens at the border every month. Worse, in each month of Mayorkas’ leadership, apprehensions increased, reaching a high of 178,622 in April, the highest number of apprehensions in decades.
During this time, what has Mayorkas done to stem the flow of illegal crossers? Absolutely nothing. In fact, he spent the first few months of his tenure effectively burying his head in the sand and denying that a crisis existed at all, even as border state officials of his own political party begged Washington for help stemming the flow. To anyone watching this unfold, the border crisis has been the number one challenge facing Mayorkas in his tenure as DHS secretary, yet Mayorkas himself failed to act in any meaningful way to address it.
Mayorkas has not acted decisively to end the current crisis. Instead, he exacerbated it by supporting the end of Title 42 for unaccompanied minors which instigated the surge in the first place. In press conferences and official appearances, Mayorkas goes to great lengths to stress that “now is not the time to come,” insinuating to all migrants that there will be a time to come in the future and instilling false hope that the border is open to aliens without entry documents. Instead of empowering our immigration agencies to do their jobs and regain operational control of our border, Mayorkas handcuffs them with commands not to enforce the law in courthouses and with restrictions on which aliens are subject to detainment, causing confusion and eroding morale.
To say that Mayorkas weighs the risks of his decision-making infers that Mayorkas accepts that there are negative consequences associated with eviscerating immigration enforcement in the first place. He has shown again and again that he does not find any. If anything, he has doubled down on the notion that there is no crisis at the border and bizarrely claimed in a Senate hearing that it was President Trump’s administration – rather than the current one – whose policies led to the present border crisis. Mayorkas continues betting on the current strategy of inaction, confident that the current policies will work and that the administration is doing everything it can to slow the crisis. That is a terrible gamble, and eerily echoes the definition of insanity: doing the same thing repeatedly and hoping for a different outcome.
Perhaps the most damning indictment against Mayorkas is his refusal to accept responsibility for what has occurred under his leadership. Morale at CBP and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) continues plummeting. Apprehensions rise each month, setting record after record. The cartels and human traffickers who profit from the mayhem at the border are richer than ever. Disturbing accounts of migrant abuse – including the hurling of an infant into the Rio Grande to distract Border Patrol – become more common. And every day, the efficacy of our current policies to slow the crisis becomes more suspect. Has Mayorkas accepted responsibility for any of this, even as he has the power to enact policies that could end it? Of course not.
The country has lost confidence in Mayorkas to do his job. The situation is worsening, not improving, because of his lack of leadership in the secretary position. Joe Biden is the President of the United States. As president, he more than most must act decisively, weigh risks, and navigate challenges that face his presidency. Immigration is one of those challenges, and Mayorkas is making his job harder.
For these reasons, Biden must remove Mayorkas from his role and nominate someone for the position who understands and is prepared to solve the current challenges our country faces at the southern border. Refusing to do so would imperil our national security further and subject Biden to questions of confidence in his own leadership as president.
Dan Stein is the president at the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).