President-elect Joe Biden has announced that he will nominate Alejandro Mayorkas, a former Obama administration official, to lead the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
Mayorkas served in the Obama administration as the director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) from 2008 to 2013 and deputy secretary of DHS from 2013 to 2016. When he led USCIS, he developed the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. President Trump moved to terminate DACA shortly after taking office in 2017, but the U.S. Supreme Court found the termination unlawful earlier this year. As deputy DHS secretary, Mayorkas oversaw the agency’s response to the Zika and Ebola outbreaks. He also implemented the first memorandum of understanding between the United States and Cuba.
If confirmed by the Senate, Mayorkas, 61, would be the first immigrant and first Latino to lead the agency. Born in Cuba, Mayorkas, whose mother is a Holocaust survivor, came to the U.S. in 1960 when his parents fled the Cuban Revolution. He grew up in Southern California, and he received his undergraduate degree from University of California at Berkeley and his law degree from Loyola Law School.
In addition to immigration agency experience, Mayorkas has practiced law in private practice and as a prosecutor. As an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Clinton administration, he focused on white collar crime, including money laundering, telemarketing fraud, healthcare and insurance fraud. After serving in the Obama administration, he returned to private practice as a partner at WilmerHale in Washington, D.C. where he has practiced since 2016.
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