ELECTIONS

Ex-Homeland Security official Alejandro Mayorkas returns under Biden

Nov 23, 2020, 2:53 PM
Alejandro Mayorkas...
FILE - In this July 25, 2013, file photo Alejandro Mayorkas, President Obama's nominee to become deputy secretary of the Homeland Security Department, testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on his nomination. President-elect Joe Biden is filling out his administration with key picks for his national security and foreign policy teams. Mayorkas will be nominated as the secretary for the department of homeland security. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON (AP) — President-elect Joe Biden is turning to a veteran of the Department of Homeland Security to lead the agency created after the Sept. 11 attacks but reshaped by President Donald Trump to carry out his hardline immigration and law enforcement agenda.

Biden on Monday announced the nomination of Alejandro Mayorkas, who served under President Barack Obama as deputy secretary of homeland security and director of the Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Mayorkas has achieved some historic firsts. In 1998, he was the youngest U.S. attorney. He was the highest-ranking Cuban American under Obama. And he helped negotiate the first homeland security memorandum of understanding between the U.S. and Cuba, where he was born.

If confirmed by the Senate, Mayorkas, who turns 61 on Tuesday, would be the first Hispanic and the first immigrant to lead DHS. He noted the poignancy in a tweet after his nomination was announced.

“When I was very young, the United States provided my family and me a place of refuge,” he said. “Now, I have been nominated to be the DHS Secretary and oversee the protection of all Americans and those who flee persecution in search of a better life for themselves and their loved ones.”

Mayorkas ran the citizenship agency within DHS from 2008 to 2013, developing the program to shield from deportation people who had been brought to the U.S. illegally as minors, a program Trump has sought to end.

Afterward, as the second in command at DHS until 2016, he led its response to the Zika and Ebola outbreaks.

As a former federal prosecutor and a partner at the prominent law firm WilmerHale, Mayorkas is well versed in the criminal cases involving a transnational crime that is generated by the agencies under DHS purview.

“His knowledge of the department and ability to hit the ground running will enable him to start the repair work that is sorely needed,” said Alan Bersin, a former assistant secretary in the Office of Policy at DHS.

At DHS, he would assume command of a sprawling agency, with more than 250,000 employees, that has experienced repeated leadership changes. For more than a year, it has been led by an acting secretary who hasn’t been confirmed by the Senate.

“They need people particularly like him who have that institutional knowledge of DHS,” said Gil Kerlikowske, who served as commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection under Obama. “It’s a huge, complex organization and it’s probably the one that, of all the Cabinet offices, has been buffeted the most by pure politics and incompetent leadership.”

The challenges he would face at DHS include rolling back some of the hundreds of immigration policies changed under Trump without triggering a surge of migrants at the border, where the number of people apprehended rose in October for the sixth straight month.

Bersin said Mayorkas is a “centrist” who will seek to balance humanitarian concerns with the need for border security.

“The number of migrants who are moving toward the border are dramatically increasing as we speak and the imperative of the Biden administration to focus its efforts on the pandemic and the economic recovery would make a migration crisis a burden,” he said.

Mayorkas was honored by the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles for developing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, granting a reprieve to people brought to the country as children. The group’s executive director, Angelica Salas, also praised him for authorizing discretion in decisions on whether to deport people in the country illegally as well as waiving immigration fees for poor people.

Salas said she’s hoping he will help create a “more humane” immigration system. “We need to repair so much after the pain and suffering that people have gone through under the Trump administration.”

DHS was at the center of Trump administration’s efforts to reduce both legal and illegal immigration through a large number of policy changes. That included separating children from their parents at the border in response to a surge of migrants from Central America, severe curbs on the ability of migrants to claim asylum at the southwestern border and efforts to build a border wall with Pentagon funds after Congress refused to fund the project.

The agency, which was created to improve the nation’s resistance to external threats, also moved more deeply into domestic law enforcement under Trump, sending agents and officers to Portland, Oregon, and other cities to respond to unrest without the consent of local authorities.

It was also the subject of a complaint filed by a whistleblower, who alleged he was pressured by senior officials there to suppress facts in intelligence reports that Trump might find objectionable, including information about Russian interference in the election and the rising threat posed by white supremacists.

Last week, the head of the DHS cybersecurity agency was fired by Trump after knocking down unsubstantiated rumors that the election results could have been affected by technical problems or fraud, directly refuting the president and his allies.

Today’s Top Stories

Elections

A ballot drop box is pictured. Those wanting to vote in the utah primary election can still vote in...
Sydnee Gonzalez

Analysis shows ‘sizable’ gap in Salt Lake’s west side/east side voter turnout

Voters on Salt Lake City's west side turned out for the 2022 midterms at a much lower rate than their east-side counterparts.
4 days ago
FILE: Former President Donald Trump, seen here on May 28, filed his paperwork on November 15 establ...
Gabby Orr and Fredreka Schouten, CNN

Former President Donald Trump says he’s launching another White House bid

On Tuesday, former President Donald Trump announced that he will run again for President in 2024.
12 days ago
Rep. Kevin McCarthy was nominated by a secret ballot of his peers to replace Rep. Nancy Pelosi if R...
LISA MASCARO and FARNOUSH AMIRI Associated Press

McCarthy wins nomination for House speaker, but grind ahead

McCarthy won the nomination Tuesday from his GOP colleagues in a secret ballot election. But it's just the start.
12 days ago
utah house members...
Elizabeth Weiler

Utah welcomes new house members in both parties

There are three new party members in both the Utah House and Senate, and a full female line-up in the Utah Democrat's leadership.
12 days ago
Former U.S. President Donald Trump talks to the press on the grounds of his Mar-a-Lago resort on mi...
Gabby Orr and Steve Contorno, CNN

Trump is on the defense as he prepares for expected 2024 announcement

It's a concern Trump allies are confronting head on as they privately explore ways to make the monstrous pile of cash he has raised since leaving office available to him as a presidential candidate.
12 days ago
A member of the Utah Taxpayers Association weighs in on how Salt Lake County will spend an 85 milli...
Curt Gresseth

SLC voters OK $85 million parks and trails bond. Is it worth higher taxes?

The Utah Tax Payers Association offers insight into the parks and trails bond and breaks down what the money will fund.
12 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...
Sorenson

The best tools for Deaf and hard-of-hearing workplace success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Team supporters celebrating at a tailgate party...
Macey's

8 Delicious Tailgate Foods That Require Zero Prep Work

In a hurry? These 8 tailgate foods take zero prep work, so you can fuel up and get back to what matters most: getting hyped for your favorite
christmas decorations candles in glass jars with fir on a old wooden table...
Western Nut Company

12 Mason Jar Gift Ideas for the 12 Days of Christmas [with recipes!]

There are so many clever mason jar gift ideas to give something thoughtful to your neighbors or friends. Read our 12 ideas to make your own!
wide shot of Bear Lake with a person on a stand up paddle board...

Pack your bags! Extended stays at Bear Lake await you

Work from here! Read our tips to prepare for your extended stay, whether at Bear Lake or somewhere else nearby.
young boy with hearing aid...
Sorenson

Accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing

These different types of accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing can help them succeed in school.
Young woman receiving laser treatment...
Form Derm Spa

How facial plastic surgery and skincare are joining forces

Facial plastic surgery is not only about looking good but about feeling good too. The medical team at Form Spa are trained to help you reach your aesthetic outcomes through surgery and through skincare and dermatology, too.
Ex-Homeland Security official Alejandro Mayorkas returns under Biden