President-elect Joe Biden has named Alejandro Mayorkas as his Homeland Security secretary, a move that could make the Cuban American and former federal prosecutor in California the first Latino to serve in the Cabinet post.
Mayorkas, who was born in Havana, attended the University of California, Berkeley and began working for the government as an assistant United States attorney in the Central District of California, specializing in white-collar crime, according to the Biden transition announcement. He became the youngest U.S. attorney in the country. Under the Obama administration, Mayorkas was a primary architect of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and a primary negotiator of the thaw in then-frozen U.S.-Cuban relations. Both DACA and the opening to Cuba have been primary political targets for President Donald Trump and his Republican Party.
Biden adds Mayorkas to his growing list of picks for national security and foreign policy-focused Cabinet posts even as an increasing number of experts from Trump’s own party call for him to begin the transition. They argue that Trump’s attempts to undermine an election he clearly lost are threatening U.S. national security.
Even without the delay to the transition, the task facing Mayorkas is a daunting one: steering a behemoth department — the federal government’s third largest with some 240,000 employees — away from being used as a political tool to achieve Trump’s central campaign promise of restricting immigration, in almost the opposite direction.
Biden has promised to reverse many of Trump’s immigration policies, enacted by an unprecedentedly politicized Homeland Security department wracked by record vacancies and turnover, from an assault on asylum to slashes to family and business-based immigration and restoring DACA. Trump officials were recently handed another loss in their long-running attempt to end the program, which Biden has promised to fully restore as one of his first moves in office.