Biden taps Alejandro Mayorkas as first immigrant to lead homeland security

President-elect Joe Biden said Monday he will nominate Alejandro Mayorkast, a former Obama administration official who will play a key role in leading the expected government, to head the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). withdrawal efforts President Trump’s rapid immigration changes.

Mayorkas, a Cuban immigrant who arrived in the United States as a political refugee, would be the first immigration secretary and the first Latino to lead the department, a bureaucratic juggle with more than 240,000 employees for border and transportation security, immigration enforcement, cyber security, natural disaster relief and other law enforcement functions.

“At a very young age, the United States provided shelter for my family and me. I have now been appointed DHS secretary and overseen the protection of all Americans and those fleeing persecution for a better life. Themselves and their loved ones,” Mayorkas continued. Twitter.

Born in Havana with his Mayorkas family, he left Cuba in the 1960s after Fidel Castro’s left-wing revolutionaries ousted a strong man backed by the United States, Fulgencio Batista, to establish a communist regime. His mother, a Romanian Jew, fled to Cuba in the 1940s to escape the Nazi occupation of Europe.

In 2009, Mayorkas joined the Obama administration as director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This agency processes applications for immigration benefits such as green cards, work permits and naturalization ceremonies. President Barack Obama appointed Mayorkas as DHS’s deputy secretary in 2013, a role later confirmed by the Senate and becoming the government’s highest-ranking Cuban America.

Vice President Joe Biden will attend the naturalization ceremony
Vice President Joe Biden will attend when Alejandro Mayorkas takes an oath of allegiance to new American citizens during a naturalization ceremony on November 14, 2013 in Atlanta, Georgia.

Chris McKay / WireImage

Mayorkas worked at WilmerHale’s international law firm after his role in the Obama administration.

Mr. Biden’s transition adviser praised Mayorkas’ choice and told CBS News that “he has deep experience, knows the class well, is well regarded by the immigrant advocacy community and law enforcement.”

Senator Gary Peters of Michigan, the senior Democrat on the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government, praised Mr. Biden for selecting a candidate with previous experience in leading DHS.

“Our nation is facing constant threats, long and repeated, including foreign and domestic terrorism, natural disasters, cyber attacks, and now an epidemic,” Peters says in a statement. “The Department of Homeland Security has a critical role to play in addressing these threats and strengthening our national security, and it needs highly trained, experienced and committed leaders like Mr Mayorkas – especially after years of chaos and mismanagement.”

Several current DHS executives, including the two top officials, Chad Wolf and Ken Cuccinelli, hold positions or continue to be “senior officials” for positions confirmed by the Senate.

Mr. Biden’s interim office highlighted the fact that Mayorkas had been confirmed by the Senate for three different positions, including the 1998 U.S. attorney appointment in Los Angeles. However, Mayorkas will face a narrow ratification vote next year, especially if Republicans manage to defend Georgian Senate seats in January.

Republican lawmakers may refer to a 2015 general report from a DHS supervisor that Mayorkas had improperly intervened in the visa process on behalf of several companies – a conclusion he firmly denied.

John Sandweg, former acting director of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) under the Obama presidency, called Mayorkast a “great choice” for the DHS secretary. “He has a strong law enforcement certificate, he will get on the ground and put good politics first over good politics,” Sandweg added.

The selection of Mayorkas indicates that the incoming Biden administration will prioritize immigration policy, which DHS typically implements and enforces alongside the Department of Justice. During his tenure under the Obama administration, Mayorkas worked to implement the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which protected hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as minors from deportation.

In four years, Mr. Trump has reshaped the U.S. immigration system, passing more than 400 policy changes to restrict asylum, limit the humanitarian protection of immigrants living in the country, tighten access to green cards, expand deportees, and reduce refugee reception. .

Mr. Biden has it he vowed to upset or will change the multitude of these changes, and Mayorkas is likely to oversee these efforts.

Texas Democratic Congressman Joaquin Castro, congressional Spanish Caucasian president and frequent critic of Mr. Trump’s immigration policy, said he can’t wait to work with Mayorass to “treat immigrants with dignity and respect”.

“After the cruelty and destruction carried out by the Trump government, Mayorkas will be commissioned to rework DHS,” Castro said.

Andres Triay contributed to the report.

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