PLAYER PROFILE

Alejandro Mayorkas

Nominee for Secretary of Homeland Security | Former Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security | Former Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

If confirmed, Alejandro Mayorkas will be the first Latino and the first immigrant to serve as Secretary of Homeland Security. His nomination falls in line with President-Elect Biden’s stated intent to make immigration policy reform a priority in his administration. 

As the son of Cuban refugees, Mayorkas would bring a deep personal connection to his role. He responded to his nomination on Twitter by writing, “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.” 

As the Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) under the Obama administration, Mayorkas was integral to the development and implementation of DACA. He has spoken publicly about the need to codify protection for undocumented immigrants through legislation, such as the DREAM Act, and supports expanding DACA’s protections to more individuals.

As Secretary of Homeland Security, Mayorkas is likely to attempt to strike a balance between a welcoming and humanitarian immigration policy and by-the-books immigration enforcement. At a Migration Policy Institute conference in 2016, he addressed criticisms that the Obama administration’s deportation of Latin American migrants who had not qualified for refugee status was inhumane, saying, “We are a nation of immigrants and we are a nation of laws.”

Undoubtedly Republicans will use the confirmation process to draw scrutiny to two allegations of misconduct, one in 2010 and another in 2015. In 2010, Sen. Chuck Grassley penned a letter expressing concerns that as director of USCIS, Mayorkas “[fosters] an environment that pressures employees to approve as many applications as possible and condones retaliation against those who dissent.” In 2015, the DHS Office of the Inspector General opened an investigation after employees alleged Mayorkas used his position as deputy secretary of the DHS to provide “special access and special favors” to EB-5 applicants with connections to powerful Democrats. The EB-5 is a program to provide visas to foreigners who will invest between $500,000-$1,000,000 in American business ventures. The report concluded that Mayorkas had “exerted improper influence,” but did not break the law.

SOURCES:

Mayorkas’S IDEAS

  • Border Security

    Mayorkas has framed border security as an issue of American identity, saying, “Understanding that we have to manage our borders, are we proudest when we manage those most effectively and hew with some orthodoxy to the standards articulated in the law, or are we most noble when we exercise our discretion with greater generosity and welcome these individuals?” However, he has not yet outlined a concrete plan to address border security.

  • Border Wall

    No statement found.

  • Detention

    Mayorkas opposes the separation of migrant children from their parents, which he called “heartbreaking” at an immigration summit held over Zoom in December 2020. His other remarks on immigrant detention have been largely rhetorical. At a Migration Policy Institute conference in 2016, Mayorkas posed what he believes are the two fundamental questions about detention: “Are we detaining the right people, and are we proud of the conditions in which we house them during the period of their detention?” He did not give his own opinion on the subject, and has not yet released a plan that covers detention.

  • Immigration Courts

    No statement found.

  • Undocumented Population

    Mayorkas supported protections for undocumented parents of American citizens through the proposed Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) policy, which stalled after the deadlocked United States vs Texas Supreme Court case in June 2016. He has not made a statement about how to handle the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. with no legal status.

  • ICE

    No statement found.

  • DACA

    As one of the architects of DACA, Mayorkas called the Trump administration’s attempt to dismantle DACA “a devastating setback.” In a 2017 interview with PBS NewsHour, he expressed hope that Congress will pass legislation “along the lines of the DREAM Act” to more permanently protect the status of individuals covered under DACA. He also hoped that the age limit on such protections could be extended to include all undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, no matter their age today. Currently, DACA only covers applicants who were under the age of 31 on June 15, 2012.

  • Asylum

    Himself the child of parents who fled the communist revolution in Cuba, Mayorkas is sympathetic to individuals seeking refuge in the United States, but advocates firm adherence to the legal process. In 2016 he stood by the Obama administration’s deportation of asylum-seekers who had not qualified for refugee status, saying, “We are a nation of immigrants and we are a nation of laws.”

  • Central America Policy

    No statement found.

  • Visas

    As director of USCIS, Mayorkas introduced improvements to the E-Verify system, including automatic passport photo verification for employers and the Self Check system for employees, which allows workers to check their own employment eligibility information and submit corrections to any errors. Mayorkas also sought to streamline and accelerate the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program, a visa eligible to foreign investors in U.S. businesses. Under Mayorkas, USCIS developed a quicker review process for the EB-5, created specialized teams dedicated to applications, and offered a direct line of communication between applicants and their reviewers.