Arizona crowd cheers for Alejandro Mayorkas impeachment at House Judiciary hearing

YUMA, Ariz. — An elated crowd inside Yuma’s city hall cheered Thursday for Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas’ potential impeachment after a local official accused him of lying about plans to close gaps in the US-Mexico border wall.

Jonathan Lines, a member of the Yuma County Board of Supervisors, testified at a House Judiciary Committee field hearing, which was boycotted by panel Democrats, that Mayorkas falsely said he’d address openings that are popular avenues for illegal immigration and drug smuggling.

“Has Secretary Mayorkas ever lied to you?” Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) asked Lines, who was one of three witnesses at the hearing.

“Yes,” Lines said to chuckles from a crowd of more than 200 in the hearing chamber.

“What was the substance of that lie?” asked Gaetz.

“The mayor and I had the opportunity to visit with Secretary Mayorkas and the Yuma [Border Patrol] sector chief … at sector headquarters almost a year ago,” Lines said. “And during that meeting he committed to, after reviewing the border both from the ground and the air, to specifically address ‘nine of the 11 Yuma gaps.’”

A local official accused Mayorkas of lying about plans to close gaps in the US-Mexico border wall.
Steven Nelson

“And how many of those gaps have been addressed?” asked Gaetz.

“To date so far? None. We see infrastructure on two and yet they would not deter anyone,” Lines said.

“It seems as though it’s not a great mystery where the pressure points are where we have gaps in the wall and where we have recalcitrant [Native American] tribes,” Gaetz said — after touring two such gaps Wednesday night with fellow committee members.

Lines added he believes Mayorkas has “a lack of will” to follow through and seal up the wall — which was left unfinished at the end of the Trump administration. President Biden halted all wall construction in January 2021, but the White House said in July that it would close gaps near Yuma.

“We’ve followed up multiple times — as well as Yuma sector of Border Patrol staff — and with undersecretaries, and we were told time and time again that they were issuing contracts, that we would have it no later than June of last year, then no later than September, then no later than November. Every time it kept getting pushed out,” Lines said.

“I was patient every time that I called and they continued to push this process out. It’s not reasonable.”

The crowd erupted when Gaetz called for Mayorkas’ outster of Lines’ testimony.

Yuma Sheriff Leon Wilmont
Yuma Sheriff Leon Wilmont said that Mayorkas has not secured the border.
Jeff Topping

“The day will come soon when Secretary Mayorkas has to come and answer our questions. And to my colleagues, if he’ll lie to Mr. Lines and lie to the community here, then he will lie to us and he will lie to the American people,” Gaetz said. “And that’s why I’m very proud to cosponsor Representative [Andy] Biggs’ articles of impeachment against Secretary Mayorkas, because this is not a lack of ability, it’s a lack of will.”

Asked if Mayorkas was securing the border, Yuma Sheriff Leon Wilmont gave a one-word answer: “No.”

Later in the hearing, Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-NJ), who initially was elected to Congress as a Democrat in 2018 before switching parties the following year, said he plans to vote for the secretary’s impeachment — saying “Mayorkas has committed treason.”

“Of course I applauded,” high school teacher Malba Alvarez told The Post afterward.

Mayorkas “hasn’t even been present to see in reality what the gaps are” and “he needs to become better informed,” said Alvarez, who lives in the town of San Luis, just southwest of Yuma.

Another attendee, retiree Donna Angel, sat near the witness table wearing a t-shirt promoting Nikki Haley’s 2024 Republican presidential candidacy and said she cheered for Mayorkas’ impeachment “because nothing’s getting done.”

“We have a problem here and he says we don’t,” said Angel, who also lives outside Yuma and said she was particularly perturbed that inland Homeland Security checkpoints in the area haven’t been manned during the Biden administration, depriving the region of a secondary level of border security.

Yuma, Arizona town hall
Over 200 people came to the hearing at the Yuma town hall.
Jeff Topping

Committee Republicans took turns at the hearing tearing into their Democratic colleagues for skipping the delegation visit to Yuma.

“Just fentanyl alone should be a national emergency in America and I can’t believe we do not have colleagues on the other side of the aisle [here],” fumed a red-faced Rep. Tom Tiffany (R-Wis.).

The Biden administration recently has touted the amount of fentanyl seized along the border, noting record hauls of the potent synthetic opioid that can kill with doses the size of 10 grains of salt, with Biden himself saying this month at his annual State of the Union that border authorities had seized “over 23,000 pounds of fentanyl in just the last several months.”

But the Republican panel members pointed to record-high fentanyl death statistics and sought to poke holes in Democratic arguments that most of the fentanyl is smuggled through legal ports of entry rather than across unwalled sections of frontier.

At one point, Lines said the latest fentanyl seizure statistics show an increasing share found between border stops. He linked the increase to a reduction of migrants crossing in the Yuma area in January, which freed up Border Patrol officials to commit more attention to drug-runners.

Matt Gaetz
Matt Gaetz touted his support to impeach Mayorkas.
Jeff Topping

There were about 196,000 US deaths from fentanyl from 2018 through 2021. Fentanyl death data from 2022 isn’t yet available, though the toll is expected to remain near all-time highs as the compound, largely sourced from China and smuggled through Mexico, is increasingly mixed into cocaine and counterfeit prescriptions, killing unwitting users.

The hearing focused on a wide array of border-linked issues, ranging from the burden of unreimbursed healthcare on a local hospital, damage to local crops and violence caused by drug cartels and their alleged mistreatment of migrants, which several legislators said amounted to “slavery” or “indentured servitude.”

The Biden administration has presided over a record surge in illegal immigration — with nearly 2.4 million illegal border-crossing arrests in fiscal 2022, which ended Sept. 30, up from 1.7 million in fiscal 2021, fewer than 500,000 in 2020 and nearly 1 million in 2019. 

So far, fiscal 2023 is on pace to set another record, with more than 762,000 Southwest border apprehensions recorded from Oct. 1 through Jan. 31 — up 18.3% from the same period one year prior. There reportedly were 1.2 million known “gotaways” who eluded arrest in the first 24 months of Biden’s presidency, according to US Customs and Border Protection data.

Critics blame the border crisis on Biden’s policies, including relaxing the Trump-era mandate to quickly deport border-crossers under a CDC COVID-19 rule and also ending a policy of requiring migrants to remain in Mexico to await court ruling on their asylum claims. Biden officials say a policy similar to Trump’s “remain in Mexico” program will be enacted in May to replace the CDC rule, though it’s unclear how strictly it will be enforced.