The Senate on Tuesday voted 56-43 to confirm Alejandro Mayorkas to be President Biden’s homeland security secretary.
Most Republicans voted against Mayorkas citing alleged ethics issues from his time at the department under former President Barack Obama.
Mayorkas will be in charge of implementing Biden’s rollback of former President Donald Trump’s immigration policies.
“His qualifications are unassailable. He’s a seven-year veteran of the DHS and has already been confirmed by this chamber three times,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said.
Mayorkas was born in Cuba to Jewish parents and immigrated to the US as an infant. He led US Immigration and Citizenship Services from 2009-2013 and was deputy DHS director from 2013-2016.
Ahead of his confirmation vote, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) slammed Mayorkas over a 2015 inspector general report that found he helped expedite visa requests for well-connected people.
“His record should foreclose confirmation even to a lower post,” McConnell said.
“The problem isn’t experience — not exactly. Mr. Mayorkas is all too familiar with the levers of power that control US immigration law. The problem is when he has chosen pull those levers and for whose benefit,” McConnell said.
“As a high-ranking official in the Obama administration, Mr. Mayorkas did his best to turn US Citizenship and Immigration Services into an unethical favor factory for Democratic Party royalty — governors, the DNC chair, Hollywood executives, a Senate majority leader from Nevada, they all received special treatment to a degree that stunned and disturbed the Obama administration’s own inspector general.”
At his confirmation hearing, Mayorkas said he did nothing wrong. He also said he will end construction of the Mexico border wall in accordance with Biden’s directive, even though Congress in December approved $1.4 billion in new funds for the project.
Mayorkas assured senators that the Biden administration’s plan to end the Trump-brokered “Remain in Mexico” policy requiring Central Americans to await an asylum decision in Mexico won’t necessarily happen immediately — and people shouldn’t rush to the border hoping for more favorable treatment.
The policy change “cannot be accomplished with just a flick of a switch,” he said.
Mayorkas stressed that he wanted to focus on the “push” factors inspiring Central Americans to travel to the US and confirmed “I would not abolish” U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a DHS agency that plays a key role in deportations.
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