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Alejandro Mayorkas confirmed as first Latino and immigrant to run DHS

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Alejandro Mayorkas confirmed as first Latino and immigrant to run DHS


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Mayorkas cleared the Senate in a 56-43 vote, one of the closest votes for any of President Biden’s nominees so far.

USA TODAY

WASHINGTON – Alejandro Mayorkas was confirmed by the Senate on Tuesday and will become the first immigrant and first Latino to lead the Department of Homeland Security.  

Despite opposition from Republicans, Mayorkas secured enough votes for confirmation, by a 56-43 vote. It was one the closest votes for any of President Joe Biden’s nominees.  

Biden asked for speedy confirmation of his national security nominees as he filled his Cabinet, but Senate Republicans objected, citing concerns about how Mayorkas settled disputes in a visa program during a previous post in the department, which delayed the confirmation process.

The Department of Homeland Security is responsible for counterterrorism, cybersecurity, border security, enforcement of U.S. immigration laws and more. As DHS secretary, Mayorkas will lead a task force on family separation, focused largely on reuniting migrant parents and their children.

Mayorkas arrived in the USA from Cuba in 1960 with his parents as refugees from Fidel Castro’s regime. He has been deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security and headed its citizenship agency.

During his hearing, Mayorkas faced pointed questions from Republicans about his background, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., urged them to vote against his confirmation, slamming the nominee in a  Senate floor speech Tuesday morning as an “ethically compromised partisan lawyer.”

The Biden administration is set to announce a series of executive actions Tuesday afternoon rolling back some of President Donald Trump’s hard-line immigration policies. 

More: GOP senators question Biden’s DHS nominee Alejandro Mayorkas over immigration enforcement, visas

More: 628 parents remain separated from their kids after Trump’s zero-tolerance border policy. Biden wants to find them.

The visa dispute highlighted by Senate Republicans dealt with the EB-5 program that encourages business investment to create jobs. An inspector general’s report that found Mayorkas communicated with stakeholders outside the normal process, and without his intervention, cases “would have been decided differently.” 

The report also said Mayorkas’ actions were legal and “legitimately within his purview” as director. Mayorkas said it was his job to resolve disputes in a complex bureaucracy.

He helped create an office to oversee EB-5 reviews, revamped the evaluation process and enhanced the program’s fraud and security safeguards.

Earlier Tuesday, the Senate confirmed another historic Cabinet position: Pete Buttigieg as transportation secretary. He is the first openly gay Cabinet secretary to be confirmed by the Senate. 

Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and a Democratic presidential candidate, received overwhelming bipartisan support with a 86-13 vote. 

Buttigieg said he was “honored and humbled by today’s vote in the Senate – and ready to get to work.”

Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., the incoming Democratic chair of the panel overseeing Buttigieg’s confirmation, praised him as a “young, energetic mayor” who could “help us usher in a new era of transportation.” 

The Department of Transportation distributes billions of dollars in federal highway funding and regulates aviation, railroads and busing. Biden’s infrastructure and clean energy plan proposed placing 500,000 charging stations along highways and changing federal vehicles to electric power. Biden signed an executive order requiring the wearing of face masks in airports, on certain public transportation and on many trains, planes and buses. 

More: Pete Buttigieg becomes first openly gay Senate-confirmed Cabinet secretary

Contributing: Bart Jansen, Nicholas Wu, Savannah Behrmann

Read or Share this story: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2021/02/02/alejandra-mayorkas-confirmed-first-latino-and-immigrant-run-dhs/4354676001/



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