By a vote of 56-43, the Senate confirmed Joe Biden’s nominee Alejandro Mayorkas as the seventh confirmed Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and its component agencies which include Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the U.S. Border Patrol, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Only six Republican senators voted in favor of Mayorkas’ confirmation: Shelley Moore Capito (W.V.), Mitt Romney (Utah), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Susan Collins (Maine), Rob Portman (Ohio), and Dan Sullivan (Alaska).
Mayorkas now directs the federal government’s third largest cabinet department and oversees nearly all of our country’s federal immigration agencies, with the exception of the Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR), which is a component of the Justice Department. Biden nominated Mayorkas specifically because of his immigration views and actions taken during the Obama administration, when Mayorkas served as the director of USCIS between 2009 and 2013 and as the deputy secretary of DHS between 2013 and 2016.
As the director of USCIS, Mayorkas was the architect of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) executive amnesty program as well as its unconstitutional companion memorandum for adults, Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA). An inspector general report also found that Mayorkas intervened to help foreign investors – connected to top Democrats – involved in the highly controversial EB-5 visa program. Additionally, according to a report by the Inspector General, Mayorkas, as director of USCIS, directed agency personnel to ignore evidence of fraud and approve immigration benefits, as part of a policy dubbed, “get to yes.”
Even before Mayorkas’ confirmation, President Biden began unraveling the executive actions taken by his predecessor, Donald Trump. On day one of his presidency, Biden issued six executive orders that stood in stark contrast to the outgoing administration. His administration continues working with Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) in crafting a massive immigration legislative package that includes a blanket amnesty for nearly every illegal alien in the United States, in exchange for no enforcement reforms.
With Mayorkas confirmed and at the helm, DHS will have a much more active role in achieving President Biden’s immigration goals. The department will begin issuing new proposed rules in the Federal Register, something that the Trump administration found some limited success with. Speaking of those rules, Mayorkas’ DHS can begin the long process of reversing or significantly altering existing rules that protect the interests of the American public, likely beginning with the changes to Public Charge, which Biden opposes.
Mayorkas’ first order of business is likely going to be finding ways to “preserve and fortify DACA” according to President Biden’s January 20 memorandum to the DHS secretary and attorney general. As the primary architect of DACA there is, from the perspective of the Biden administration, no one better suited for the job.
FAIR firmly opposed the confirmation of Mayorkas. In a press release, Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) president Dan Stein noted that Mayorkas represented the “wrong person at the wrong time” to lead DHS. Following Mayorkas’ confirmation by the Senate, FAIR will continue monitoring his actions closely.