Jonathan Ambarian

HELENA (KPAX) — A U.S. House committee held its first hearing in an impeachment inquiry against Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas on Wednesday, January 10, 2024, and Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen was brought in as a witness in that hearing.

Republicans in the House have accused Mayorkas of disregarding his duty through his handling of the surge of migrants at the southern border.

The House Committee on Homeland Security’s initial hearing was titled “Havoc in the Heartland: How Secretary Mayorkas’ Failed Leadership Has Impacted the States.”

Knudsen was one of three Republican state attorneys general who testified about a spike in drug-related and violent crime that they believe can be traced to what they see as inadequate border security.

“The southern border certainly presents a difficult challenge for any administration, but Secretary Mayorkas and the Biden administration have absolutely poured gasoline on this fire,” he said.

Knudsen said law enforcement’s fentanyl seizures have increased dramatically since Mayorkas took over the Department of Homeland Security.

He said Montana task forces seized 61,000 units of fentanyl in 2021, and they’re on track to have intercepted almost 500,000 units once 2023 numbers are finalized.

He said he believed “100%” of that fentanyl was trafficked across the southern border by Mexican cartels.

Knudsen told representatives Wednesday that he believed Mayorkas had specifically violated federal law by instituting what he called a “mass parole” policy — a policy that led to many people who crossed the border illegally being released instead of held at detention centers.

“The Immigration and Naturalization Act makes very clear that that is not to be granted on a mass basis; that is to be granted on a case-by-case, individual basis,” he said.

Knudsen said he would “urge this body to impeach” Mayorkas.

“The Trump administration overcame fierce opposition at every turn and was able to gain control of our southern border as no previous administration could, but all of that progress has been destroyed,” he said. “Secretary Mayorkas is the architect of that destruction. The American people are watching. They know that our border was secure just a few years ago. They see the devastation metastasizing in our communities from drugs and human trafficking.

Democrats have called the impeachment inquiry an inappropriate and politicized action that won’t really address the situation at the border.

They said Mayorkas is being impeached simply because Republicans have objections to his policies.

The other attorneys general taking part in Wednesday’s hearing were Andrew Bailey of Missouri and Gentner Drummond of Oklahoma.

Also testifying was Frank Bowman, an emeritus professor of law at the University of Missouri, the Democrats’ witness.