10 Things To Know About The Man Who Could Become The First Caribbean Born U.S. DHS Secretary

Alejandro-Mayorkas
Alejandro Mayorkas at the ministry of interior Place Beauvau on January 11, 2015 in Paris, France. (Photo by Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images)

News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Tues. Nov. 24, 2020: President-elect Joe Biden has made history by nominating a Caribbean immigrant and a Latino to the post of Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. He is the second Caribbean-born national to be selected as part of the team of the incoming Joe Biden White House team. Here are 10 things you should know about the man, who could help reverse outgoing President Donald Trump’s hardline immigration policies.

1: He is Havana, Cuba-born Alejandro Mayorkas who came to the US with his parents and sister in the late 1960 as refugees, following the Cuban Revolution. He was 1-year-old at the time.

2: His father was of Cuban Jewish background and his mother a Romanian Jew, whose family had fled to Cuba. He and his family lived in Miami, Florida, before moving to Los Angeles, California, where he was raised for the remainder of his youth.

3: Mayorkas would go on to college in California, earning his Bachelor of Arts degree with distinction from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1981. He then received his Juris Doctor from Loyola Law School in Los Angeles in 1985.

4: He then entered private practice, and after three years as a litigation associate became an Assistant United States Attorney in the Central District of California in 1989, where he prosecuted a wide array of federal crimes, developing a specialization in the prosecution of white collar crime From 1996 to 1998, Mayorkas also served as Chief of the Office’s General Crimes Section, overseeing the training and trial work of all new Assistant United States Attorneys in the Criminal Division.

5: In 1998, Mayorkas was recommended by Senator Dianne Feinstein and appointed by President Clinton as the United States Attorney for the Central District of California, becoming the first United States Attorney to be promoted to that position from within the office and the youngest United States Attorney in the nation. Mayorkas oversaw the prosecution of criminal cases of national significance, including the prosecution of the Mexican Mafia in death penalty proceedings.

6: In September 2001, Mayorkas returned to private practice, joining the international law firm of O’Melveny & Myers LLP as a litigation partner.

7: In November 2008, Mayorkas was selected by the President-elect Barack Obama to lead the transition team responsible for the U.S. Department of Justice’s Criminal Division. In 2009, he was appointed by President Obama and unanimously confirmed by the Senate as the Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. As the director, Mayorkas helped in implementing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) process in 60 days. In 2008, The National Law Journal named Mayorkas one of the “50 Most Influential Minority Lawyers in America.”

8: In December 2014, Mayorkas was promoted to the position of Deputy Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security and later confirmed as the Deputy Secretary in December 2014 following a party line Senate vote. In 2015, Mayorkas traveled to Havana, Cuba, as the Obama Administration’s highest ranking Cuban American to negotiate the first-ever Homeland Security agreement between the two countries. The agreement was signed in May 2016.

9: After the Obama administration, Mayorkas joined Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP in November 2016 and resumed his representation of clients in their most significant and high-stakes litigation, internal investigations, and parallel proceedings. In 2019, Latino Leaders Magazine named him one of the 101 most influential leaders in the nation’s Latino community.

10: If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Mayorkas would become the first Caribbean-born, the first Latino and first foreign-born leader of the sprawling department created in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. “When I was very young, the United States provided my family and me a place of refuge,” Mayorkas wrote on Twitter following the announcement. “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.”

He lives with his wife and two of his three daughters in Washington, D.C. and is the second Caribbean-born national to be named in the Biden transition team.

The Biden Pledge

On the first day of his presidency, Biden intends to rescind Trump’s travel bans targeting people from 13 countries – most of them either majority-Muslim or African nations. He also plans to send immigration legislation to Congress that would include a pathway to citizenship for the estimated 11 million immigrants living in the United States illegally.

Biden also plans to revitalize the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program put in place in 2012 by Obama that offered protections to the so-called Dreamers – hundreds of thousands of immigrants living in the United States illegally after entering as children. Trump sought to rescind the program but was blocked by the U.S. Supreme Court in June