Joe Biden has tapped Cuban-born lawyer Alejandro Mayorkas to head the Department of Homeland Security. Mayorkas previously served in the DHS under Barack Obama, and has advocated a path to citizenship for immigrants.
Mayorkas was born in Cuba but came to the US with his parents when they fled Fidel Castro’s rule in 1960. He served as deputy secretary of Homeland Security between 2013 and 2016, and if confirmed by the Senate, will become the first immigrant to be put in charge of the US’ borders.
When I was very young, the United States provided my family and me a place of refuge. 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.
— Alejandro Mayorkas (@AliMayorkas) November 23, 2020
Serving under Obama, Mayorkas oversaw the implementation of DACA, which protected some illegal immigrants from deportation and issued them work permits. DACA was put in place by Obama through an executive order, and President Trump’s efforts to cancel the program have resulted in a years-long legal battle, which reached a conclusion in July when the Trump administration said it would defy a court order and stop accepting DACA applicants.
Biden has promised to restore and expand DACA, resettle more refugees and asylum seekers, rescind Trump’s travel bans, and end the separation of children from their families after entering the US illegally.
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Immigration activists see Mayorkas as just the man for this job, and the Latino lawyer has received awards from a number of organizations for his work on DACA. However, Mayorkas also oversaw the department when it’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers were separating families on a case-by-case basis, caging children, and deporting more immigrants than during any other administration in history.
Mayorkas’ advocacy for citizenship, coupled with his willingness to enforce less popular immigration policies, will give both Republicans and left-wing Democrats ample opportunity to press him during his eventual Senate hearing.
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