Advocates applaud Biden's DHS nominee, calling him the 'right person to undo Trump’s cruelties'
President-elect Joe Biden’s selection of Alejandro Mayorkas as his nominee for Department of Homeland Security (DHS) secretary represents a “shift” from the outgoing administration’s anti-immigrant and anti-asylum policies, NBC News reports. Mayorkas, a Cuban refugee who served as the department’s deputy secretary and director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in the Obama administration, said as much in his own words.
“When I was very young, the United States provided my family and me a place of refuge,” he tweeted. “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.” Mayorkas’ nomination has been welcomed by a number of immigrant rights advocates, who have said he would be the first department leader “with extensive experience with immigration.”
“Under Obama, Mayorkas … was integral to the implementation of DACA,” CNN reported. A number of advocates, including Lorella Community Change co-president Lorella Praeli and United We Dream Executive Director Greisa Martínez Rosas, noted Mayorkas was essential in the successful and popular program’s creation. “Mayorkas oversaw the creation of DACA in 2012, and I can attest that he was all in to make sure the program was the incredible success that it ultimately proved to be,” Praeli tweeted. Mayorkas “[h]elped make DACA a reality,” Martínez Rosas said.
Advocates noted that Mayorkas’ policy knowledge and experience heading agencies like USCIS will prove vital when it comes to rolling back the outgoing administration’s immigration and asylum actions, which number into the hundreds, and many of which can’t be immediately undone.
“As the next DHS secretary, Mayorkas will have one of the toughest jobs given how much damage needs to be undone from Trump’s anti-immigrant policies,” National Immigration Law Center Executive Director Marielena Hincapié said in a statement received by Daily Kos. In another statement, CHIRLA Executive Director Angelica Salas said the organization trusts “he can again turn common-sense policy into action, rather than keeping DHS another cog in the deportation machine.”
The urgent need for Mayorkas to hold the out-of-control Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection agencies accountable was stressed by the Detention Watch Network, which has fought to release immigrants from abusive immigration detention conditions. “Mayorkas has the opportunity to make the next four years about dismantling an immigration enforcement system rooted in white supremacy and xenophobia, and create a more just and equitable society for immigrants,” Executive Director Silky Shah said in a statement received by Daily Kos.
“This administration must avoid the punitive approach of previous administrations and uphold rather than compromise the rights of immigrants,” Shah continued. “The administration must stop the criminalization of immigrants. Mayorkas should work swiftly and decisively on behalf of the dignity and rights of all immigrants by taking steps to dismantle ICE, including massive cuts in the agency’s budget, the immediate shut down of detention facilities, and release of people from detention back to their families and communities.”
Should Mayorkas be confirmed early next year, he’ll be the first Senate-confirmed DHS secretary in nearly two years. “The last Senate-confirmed secretary was Kirstjen Nielsen. She left in April 2019,” CNN reported. For more than a year now, the unlawfully appointed Chad Wolf has been occupying the acting secretary title, which has resulted in changes he made by further slashing the DACA program being ruled invalid by a court.
The incoming administration has confirmed it intends to act on protecting young undocumented immigrants immediately after Biden is sworn in. “We have a big stack of business for day one already,” incoming White House Chief of Staff Ronald Klain said according to Chicago Sun-Times. “We’re going to rejoin Paris, we’re going to protect the Dreamers on day one, we’re going to take other action on health care on day one that the president-elect’s talked about during the campaign. So, we’ve got a busy, busy day one on ready scenario here.”
“Alejandro Mayorkas is an inspired choice,” America’s Voice Executive Director Frank Sharry said. “He’s the right person to undo Trump’s cruelties, advance fair and humane policies, and deliver on the bold change the American people strongly support.”