Story at a glance
- Mayorkas is a Cuban American who served as deputy DHS secretary from 2013-16.
- He’s the first Latino and first immigrant to lead DHS.
- Mayorkas’ confirmation came as President Biden was expected to sign executive orders rolling back some of former President Trump’s hardline immigration policies.
The Senate has confirmed Alejandro Mayorkas to lead the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), making him the first Latino and first immigrant to head the department responsible for enforcing U.S. immigration laws.
The Senate on Tuesday confirmed Mayorkas in a 56-43 vote, despite opposition from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell who urged Republicans to vote against Mayorkas’s confirmation due to a 2015 inspector general report that criticized Mayorkas for his mismanagement of a program that granted U.S. residency to foreign investors.
He was still confirmed despite McConnell’s opposition as six GOP members voted with Democrats to break the filibuster allowing the confirmation to move forward.
“My friends on the other side don’t have to agree with Mr. Mayorkas on the finer points of every policy, but surely we can all agree that he knows the department, he understands the threats to our nation’s security and has what it takes to lead DHS,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said ahead of the vote Tuesday.
Mayorkas, a Cuban American whose family fled the Fidel Castro-led revolution, served as deputy DHS secretary from 2013-16 under former President Obama. He was also a former U.S. attorney in California and was director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services under the Obama administration.
The confirmation comes as DHS has gone without a Senate-confirmed secretary since former Secretary Kirstjen Nielson left the role in 2019.
Mayorkas’s confirmation came as President Biden was expected to sign executive orders rolling back some of former President Trump’s hardline immigration policies, including one to start reuniting migrant children from their parents after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.
Mayorkas was the second Biden Cabinet nominee to be confirmed Tuesday, after senators voted in favor of Pete Buttigieg to head the Department of Transportation. Buttigieg, a former 2020 Democratic presidential nominee, is the first openly gay Senate-confirmed Cabinet member in U.S. history.
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