Secretary of Homeland Security | Former Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security | Former Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
The son of Cuban refugees, Alejandro Mayorkas is the first Latino and the first immigrant to lead the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). He has tried to strike a balance between a welcoming tone and by-the-books immigration enforcement; he is often known to say, “We are a nation of immigrants and we are a nation of laws.”
Mayorkas’s term has been marked by significant challenges. Starting in early 2021, migration spiked at the southern border, leaving the DHS scrambling to respond. The agency also diverted significant resources to the exoduses caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the chaotic U.S. exit from Afghanistan. Meanwhile, the executive branch’s attempts to enact its own immigration policies, from new ICE enforcement rules deprioritizing nonviolent offenders to the end of the Migrant Protection Protocols, have been repeatedly delayed and blocked by lawsuits from Republican state attorneys general.
Amid the turmoil, Mayorkas has come under fire from Republicans, who have increasingly called for his impeachment — although there is little precedent for using the process against cabinet officials. Even moderate Democrats like Sens. Mark Kelly and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Rep. Henry Cuellar of Texas have expressed concern over Mayorkas’s handling of the border.
Mayorkas has responded to criticism by pointing a finger at the Trump administration. “The prior administration dismantled our nation’s immigration system in its entirety,” he said during a 2021 briefing — an exaggeration, although the Trump administration did cut several programs (like the Central American Minors program), slash refugee admissions and refugee resettlement programs, and institute a hiring freeze that left vacancies in key DHS agencies, such as U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Pandemic-related furloughs also caused many DHS employees to seek work elsewhere and disrupted administrative processes.
Ultimately, Mayorkas emphasizes that he has a limited role to play, calling on the legislative branch to pass immigration reform. “[The system] is not built to manage the current levels and types of migratory flows,” he said during a hearing in April 2022. “Only Congress can fix this.”
- Meet the contenders for Biden’s Cabinet Politico — November 7, 2020
- Biden Nominates Cuban-Born Lawyer to Lead Homeland Security Dept. The New York Times — November 23, 2020
- Homeland Security Official Defends Handling of Visa Program The New York Times — April 30, 2015
- Alejandro Mayorkas Remarks at Immigration Policy Conference C-SPAN — September 12, 2016
- Chuck Grassley Grassley Reveals Evidence of Improper Influence over Visa Policy Senator Chuck Grassley’s Website — October 15, 2010
- DACA revoked, what should the U.S. do for young undocumented immigrants? PBS NewsHour - September 5, 2017
- Biden’s DHS pick reveals immigration vision for DHS during virtual summit Miami Herald — December 3, 2020
- Introducing ‘E-Verify Self Check,’ An Online Tool That Allows Workers to Check Their Own Employment Eligibility Status Department of Homeland Security — March 21, 2011
- Message from Director Alejandro N. Mayorkas on Proposed Changes to EB-5 Processing U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services — May 19, 2011
- Secretary Napolitano and USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas Announce Anti-Fraud Enhancements to E-Verify Department of Homeland Security — November 10, 2010
- Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas Says Trump ‘Gutted’ the Immigration System Intelligencer — March 1, 2021
- DHS secretary defends border policies under intense grilling from GOP lawmakers CBS — April 27, 2022
- House GOP amps up talk about impeaching Biden’s border chief, posing a test for McCarthy CNN — October 6, 2022
- Agency Officials Defend Biden's Proposed Hiring Surges to Congress Government Executive — April 6, 2022
- Republicans Slam Biden, Mayorkas After More Border Wall Contracts Ended Newsweek — October 8, 2021