Updated: February 26, 2021
The U.S. Senate on Tuesday confirmed Alejandro Mayorkas as the first Latino and first immigrant to serve as Secretary of Homeland Security.
Mayorkas was confirmed by a 56-43 vote, the narrowest margin for now for any of the Biden nominees.
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Mayorkas has led a distinguished 30-year career as a law enforcement official and a nationally-recognized lawyer in the private sector and served as the Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in the Obama-Biden Administration from 2013 to 2016, and as the Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services from 2009 to 2013.
During his tenure at DHS, he led the implementation of DACA, negotiated cybersecurity and homeland security agreements with foreign governments, led the Department’s response to Ebola and Zika, helped build and administer the Blue Campaign to combat human trafficking, and developed an emergency relief program for orphaned youth following the tragic January 2010 earthquake in Haiti. Mayorkas also created the Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate to better ensure the integrity of the legal immigration system.
Mayorkas began his government service in the Department of Justice, where he served as an Assistant United States Attorney in the Central District of California, specializing in the prosecution of white collar crime. After nearly nine years as a federal prosecutor, he became the youngest United States Attorney in the nation, overseeing prosecutions of national significance, including the investigation and prosecution of financial fraud, violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, public corruption, violent crime, cybercrime, environmental crime, international money laundering, and securities fraud.
Mayorkas has also led a distinguished legal career in the private sector, at O’Melveny & Myers and most recently WilmerHale, where he has specialized in strategic counseling and crisis management. He serves several non-profit organizations focused on providing legal services to the poor, refugee resettlement, and education for underprivileged youth.
Mayorkas was born in Havana, Cuba, and was the highest-ranking Cuban American to serve in the Obama-Biden Administration. Mayorkas received his bachelor’s degree with distinction from the University of California at Berkeley and a law degree from Loyola Law School.
Alejandro N. Mayorkas in his own words:
On November 24, 2020, Alejandro N. Mayorkas spoke about his life while accepting his nomination in Wilmington, Delaware, from the then President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.
He said: “Good afternoon.
“Mr. President-elect, Madame Vice President-elect, thank you for placing your trust in me to lead the Department of Homeland Security. Thank you for the privilege of returning, with the consent of the Senate, to government service as a member of your administration. It is the honor of a lifetime.
“The Department of Homeland Security has a noble mission: to help keep us safe and to advance our proud history as a country of welcome. There are more than 240,000 career employees who selflessly dedicate their talent and energy to this mission. Many risk their lives in doing so. I would be honored to return to the Department and support these dedicated public servants in fulfilling their responsibilities and realizing our country’s greatest hopes, all in partnership with the communities we serve.
“For twelve years I had the privilege of standing in a federal courtroom and announcing, “Alejandro Mayorkas on behalf of the United States of America.” The words “on behalf of the United States of America” meant everything to me and to my parents, whom I think of today and every day. My father and mother brought me to this country to escape communism. They cherished our democracy and were intensely proud to become United States citizens. As was I. I have carried that pride throughout my nearly twenty years of government service and throughout my life.
“My parents are not here to see this day. Mr. President-elect, please know that I will work day and night in the service of our nation, to ably lead the men and women of the United States Department of Homeland Security, and to bring honor to my parents and to the trust you have placed in me to carry your vision for our country forward.