Despite heavy GOP opposition, Alejandro Mayorkas was approved to lead the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on Tuesday by a 56-43 vote, with only six Republicans supporting his confirmation.
Mayorkas, born in Cuba and raised in Los Angeles, becomes the first Latino and the first immigrant to head the federal department responsible for securing the nation from outside threats. Along with his parents and sister, Mayorkas arrived in the United States as a refugee in 1960. He previously served as the DHS Deputy Secretary and director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) during the Obama administration. According to The Washington Post, Mayorkas “played a key role in the creation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program known as DACA.”
Mayorkas, 61, was sworn in by Vice President Kamala Harris on Tuesday afternoon.
— Mike Memoli (@mikememoli) February 2, 2021
“It is the greatest privilege of my life to return to the Department to lead the men and women who dedicate their talent and energy to the safety and security of our nation,” Secretary Mayorkas said. “The mission of the Department of Homeland Security is to safeguard the American people, our homeland, and our values. The United States is a welcoming and empathetic nation, one that finds strength in its diversity. I pledge to defend and secure our country without sacrificing these American values.”
The Los Angeles Times reports, “Republicans stepped up their opposition against Mayorkas, including filibustering his confirmation, after Biden on his first day set an unexpectedly aggressive agenda on immigration and border security.”
Sen. Chuck Grassley, a Republican representing Iowa, had said Mayorkas was the only Cabinet nominee he knew of “that’s got some questions about [him].”
“He has refused to enforce immigration law and has a history of corruption and scandal,” tweeted Sen. Tom Cotton, a Republican from Arkansas, before Tuesday’s vote. “No Senator should vote in favor of confirmation.”
Alejandro Mayorkas is unfit to be Secretary of Homeland Security. He has refused to enforce immigration law and has a history of corruption and scandal.
No Senator should vote in favor of confirmation.
— Tom Cotton (@SenTomCotton) February 2, 2021
“Up to this point, I’ve voted in favor of the president’s mainstream nominees to key posts,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said on Tuesday. “Mr. Mayorkas is all too familiar with the levers of power that control U.S. immigration law. The problem is when he’s chosen to pull those levers – and for whose benefit.”
Mr. McConnell had called Mayorkas an “ethically-compromised partisan lawyer,” referencing a 2015 DHS inspector general report.
The L.A. Times provides more details:
A 2015 Homeland Security Inspector General report into allegations that Mayorkas “exerted improper influence” in assisting companies with obtaining employment visas when he served as Obama’s director of USCIS, the agency charged with administering the legal immigration system, found that he intervened in three cases “in ways that benefited the stakeholders” and led employees to “reasonably believe” that certain individuals were given “special access.” The report did not find that Mayorkas broke the law, and he has disputed the finding.
After the Senate confirmed Mayorkas on Tuesday, President Biden signed three executive orders focusing on immigration. Biden insisted he was not creating “new law,” but “eliminating bad policy.”
DHS includes the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Transportation Security Administration, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and the U.S. Secret Service.
Mayorkas is CONFIRMED 56-43. Republicans voting yes: Capito, Romney, Murkowski, Collins, Portman, Sullivan via @lukebroadwater. First senate confirmed DHS secretary in roughly 21 months.
— Zolan Kanno-Youngs (@KannoYoungs) February 2, 2021
The six Republican senators who voted for his confirmation were Mitt Romney (Utah), Susan Collins (Maine), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Rob Portman (Ohio), Shelley Moore Capito (West Virginia), and Dan Sullivan (Alaska).
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