Supporters and opponents of Alejandro Mayorkas agree that President-elect Joe Biden’s choice for Homeland Security secretary would bring a wealth of experience to the job. As deputy secretary in the Obama administration, Mayorkas led responses to Ebola and the Zika virus, along with strengthening the department’s cybersecurity capabilities, crucial experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic and a high-profile hack of government servers. Having headed the legal-immigration agency before then, he would bring more immigration experience than any previous secretary. That would come in handy if one of Mayorkas’s first crises is a surge of migrant children and families arriving at the southern border, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Some Republican senators cite serious missteps as reasons he isn’t fit for the job. As U.S. Attorney in Los Angeles in the 1990s, he advocated for President Bill Clinton to grant clemency for a political ally’s son. The DHS inspector general criticized his handling of green cards for investors connected to prominent Democrats. He was confirmed in 2013 only by a 54-41 party-line vote. Still, Mayorkas has endorsements from a broad range of groups, from liberal immigration advocates to conservative law-enforcement organizations including the Fraternal Order of Police. Mayorkas’s backers say he brings the combination of a law-enforcement mind-set and compassion for immigrants. He would become the first Latino and immigrant to head the agency responsibe for immigration enforcement. “He would be the first Homeland Security secretary who would walk in the door knowing exactly the level of complexity and challenges facing him,” said Tom Ridge, a Republican and the first DHS head, who is organizing a letter supporting the nomination. Mayorkas won praise from immigrant advocates for his role implementing Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a program offering deportation protections and work permits to young immigrants without legal authorization.