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Alejandro Mayorkas, Biden's Pick For DHS Head, Would Be First Latino In Post

Alejandro Mayorkas testifying before Congress in 2015.
Alejandro Mayorkas testifying before Congress in 2015.

President-elect Biden announced Monday his intent to nominate Alejandro Mayorkas, a Cuban émigré, to head the government agency that oversees immigration issues, the Department of Homeland Security.

Mayorkas, who would be the first Latino and first immigrant to hold that job, previously served as head of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, a DHS agency, during the Obama administration, and then as deputy secretary of DHS.

Following the announcement, Mayorkas tweeted that "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."

Mayorkas, who will turn 61 on Tuesday, was born in Havana. His family fled as political refugees to Miami, and eventually settled in Los Angeles. Mayorkas is an attorney at Wilmer Hale. His bio there states that while in the Obama administration, Mayorkas "developed and implemented within sixty days the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program (DACA), through which more than 700,000 youth have benefited."

The DACA program allows immigrants who arrived in the country illegally as children to remain in the U.S and they are given permission to work or go to school. The Trump administration has tried to undo the program, but a federal judge ruled last week that Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf was improperly serving in his role, and his order to limit the program was illegal.

DACA is one of many immigration issues Mayorkas will be faced with, if confirmed by the Senate.

In a statement, Sen. Gary Peters of Michigan, the top Democrat on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said that "following years of chaos and mismanagement, I appreciate that President-elect Biden chose to nominate a qualified candidate with extensive private and public sector security experience, including several senior positions at the Department of Homeland Security. I look forward to working with him as part of the confirmation process and finding commonsense solutions to the serious threats facing our nation."

Mayorkas also served as a U.S Attorney in California.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

NPR News' Brian Naylor is a correspondent on the Washington Desk. In this role, he covers politics and federal agencies.