Person

Alejandro Mayorkas

Born:

November 24, 1959

Nationality:

Cuban-American

Occupation:

Lawyer and government appointee

Alejandro Mayorkas is an American lawyer and government official. Mayorkas is the United States Secretary of Homeland Security in the Biden administration. Previously, Secretary Mayorkas worked as an Obama administration appointee, first as Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and later as Deputy Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). [1]

As an Obama administration appointee, Secretary Mayorkas helped lead the implementation of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a program which shields select illegal immigrants from deportation. [2] He was also found to have personally intervened in investor visa cases involving associates of prominent Democrats whose applications would have otherwise been denied. These cases involved Anthony Rodham, the brother of former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe (D); and former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). [3]

Early Life and Education

Secretary Mayorkas was born on November 24, 1959 to Charles and Anita Mayorkas in Havana, Cuba. His parents are both Jewish, and his mother, Anita, was a Romanian Jew who escaped to Cuba during the Holocaust. When Secretary Mayorkas was around one year old, his family fled to America to escape the Communist regime in Cuba. The Mayorkas family initially lived in Miami, Florida, but later moved to Los Angeles, California. [4]

Secretary Mayorkas graduated from the University of California, Berkeley in 1981. He then attended and graduated from Loyola Marymount University’s Law School in 1985 with his doctorate of law.

Assistant United States Attorney

Secretary Mayorkas began his career working at the law firm of Edward Rosenfeld, where he had interned while at Berkeley. [5] A short time later, Mayorkas joined Patterson, Belknap, Webb & Tyler, a law firm headquartered in New York City. Mayorkas left the firm in 1989 to join the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Central District of California, which includes Los Angeles County in its jurisdiction. [6]

As an Assistant U.S. Attorney, Secretary Mayorkas specialized in prosecuting major fraud. He coordinated the Southern California Boiler Room Task Force, which cracked down on so-called “boiler room” operations, or criminal investors that attempt to scam consumers into purchasing fraudulent goods and stocks. At the time, then-California Attorney General John Van de Kamp (D) called Southern California “the investment fraud capital of the world.” [7]

Secretary Mayorkas’ largest case was the 1989 successful prosecution of Operation Polar Cap, which was then the largest money laundering case in the nation. Involving drug money laundered by Colombia’s Medellin cartel, Operation Polar Cap ended with charges against 127 people and two Latin American banks. [8] Secretary Mayorkas also played a role in prosecuting “Hollywood Madam” Heidi Fleiss, a celebrity who ran a large prostitution ring in Los Angeles. [9]

From 1996 until late 1998, Secretary Mayorkas worked as Chief of the General Crimes Section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, in which he trained new assistant U.S. attorneys in prosecuting narcotics crimes, violent crimes, immigration crimes, and fraud. [10]

United States Attorney

Secretary Mayorkas served as an assistant U.S. attorney for just under 10 years. In December 1998, he was recommended by U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and appointed by then-President Bill Clinton as United States Attorney for the Central District of California. At the age of 39, Secretary Mayorkas became the youngest U.S. attorney in the nation. [11] In this position, Secretary Mayorkas was also appointed Vice Chair of the U.S. Attorney General’s Advisory Subcommittee on Civil Rights and served as a member of the Subcommittee on Ethics in Government. [12]

Secretary Mayorkas’ three-year tenure as a U.S. attorney was tainted by controversy. Secretary Mayorkas successfully petitioned President Clinton to commute the 15-year sentence of Carlos Vignali Jr., the son of a wealthy Democratic donor who was imprisoned for trafficking hundreds of pounds of cocaine. Secretary Mayorkas himself later admitted that he had made “a mistake” in pushing for the commutation. [13]

Obama Administration

In 2001, Secretary Mayorkas joined O’Melveny & Myers as a litigation partner. He worked there until 2009, when he was appointed by then-President Barack Obama as Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). There, he led the implementation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and was praised for doing so in just 60 days. [14]

In this role, however, Secretary Mayorkas was once again accused of abusing his office for political favoritism. A 2015 DHS report found that Secretary Mayorkas had intervened in immigration cases related to certain “politically powerful” people involved in the investor EB-5 visa program. These powerful people included Anthony Rodham, the brother of former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe (D); and former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). [15] In the case associated with Anthony Rodham, then-Director Mayorkas approved Rodham’s associated investor, even after his initial application was denied and his appeal was rejected. [16] Secretary Mayorkas disagreed with the report but said that he would “certainly learn from it and from [that] process. [17]

In 2013, Secretary Mayorkas was appointed as Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security and confirmed in the U.S. Senate along party lines. [18] As Deputy Secretary of DHS, Secretary Mayorkas oversaw the DHS response to the Ebola and Zika outbreaks, launched campaigns to combat human trafficking, and created a program for Haitian youth orphaned by the 2010 Haiti earthquake. [19] He also focused on bolstering American cyber security. In 2015, Secretary Mayorkas attempted to negotiate with the Chinese government to prevent intellectual property theft. [20]

Biden Administration

In 2016, Secretary Mayorkas briefly joined the Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr law firm. He worked there until 2021, when he was appointed by President Joe Biden as U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security.

Most Senate Republicans strongly opposed Secretary Mayorkas’ nomination, pointing towards his record of abusing power and practicing political favoritism. U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) called Secretary Mayorkas an “ethically-compromised partisan lawyer,” arguing that that he had done “his best to turn U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services into an unethical favor factory for Democratic Party royalty.” [21]

References

  1. Hesson, Ted. “Biden Picks Cuban-American Lawyer Mayorkas as U.S. Homeland Security Chief.” Reuters. Thomson Reuters, November 23, 2020. https://www.reuters.com/article/uk-usa-biden-homeland-idUKKBN2832I5. ^
  2. Hesson, Ted. “Biden Picks Cuban-American Lawyer Mayorkas as U.S. Homeland Security Chief.” Reuters. Thomson Reuters, November 23, 2020. https://www.reuters.com/article/uk-usa-biden-homeland-idUKKBN2832I5. ^
  3. Hesson, Ted. “Biden Picks Cuban-American Lawyer Mayorkas as U.S. Homeland Security Chief.” Reuters. Thomson Reuters, November 23, 2020. https://www.reuters.com/article/uk-usa-biden-homeland-idUKKBN2832I5. ^
  4. Hesson , Ted. ABC News. ABC News Network, July 25, 2013. https://abcnews.go.com/ABC_Univision/Politics/meet-alejandro-mayorkas-man-run-homeland-security/story?id=19770760. ^
  5. Jervis, Rick. “Alejandro Mayorkas Fought for Refugees and Dreamers. Can He Undo Four Years of Trump Immigration Policies?” USA Today. Gannett Satellite Information Network, March 4, 2021. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2021/02/05/alejandro-mayorkas-prosecutor-latino-immigrant-biden-homeland-security/4374767001/. ^
  6. Rosenzweig , David. “Feinstein Recommends Mayorkas for U.S. Attorney in L.A.” Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, October 9, 1998. https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1998-oct-09-me-30731-story.html. ^
  7. Scott, David Clark. “Turning up the Heat on the `Boiler Rooms’. Big Task Force Cracking down on Investment Con Games in US.” The Christian Science Monitor. The Christian Science Monitor, March 31, 1986. https://www.csmonitor.com/1986/0331/fboil.html. ^
  8. Rosenzweig , David. “Feinstein Recommends Mayorkas for U.S. Attorney in L.A.” Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, October 9, 1998. https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1998-oct-09-me-30731-story.html. ; Welch, William M. “Drug Runners Urged Faster Money Laundering; Led Agents to Operation.” AP NEWS. Associated Press, March 30, 1989. https://apnews.com/article/77bacfb9d0c6118ed2423d6721de2bfe. ^
  9. Denkmann, Libby. “A Cuban-American Immigrant Who Grew Up In LA May Be The Next DHS Secretary.” LAist, November 23, 2020. https://laist.com/news/biden-nominates-alejandro-mayorkas-homeland-security-la. ^
  10. “Mayorkas.” Mayorkas | Los Angeles Business Journal, February 8, 1999. https://labusinessjournal.com/news/1999/feb/08/mayorkas/. ^
  11. Rosenzweig , David. “Feinstein Recommends Mayorkas for U.S. Attorney in L.A.” Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, October 9, 1998. https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1998-oct-09-me-30731-story.html. ^
  12. “Alejandro Mayorkas.” Department of Homeland Security, September 21, 2018. https://www.dhs.gov/archive/alejandro-mayorkas. ^
  13. Miroff, Nick, and Maria Sacchetti. “The Family of Alejandro Mayorkas, Biden’s Pick to Head DHS, Fled the Nazis and Then Cuba before Arriving in the United States.” The Washington Post. WP Company, January 19, 2021. https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/alejandro-mayorkas-dhs-biden-immigration/2021/01/18/8a34b2bc-40b8-11eb-a402-fba110db3b42_story.html. ^
  14. Hesson, Ted. “Biden Picks Cuban-American Lawyer Mayorkas as U.S. Homeland Security Chief.” Reuters. Thomson Reuters, November 23, 2020. https://www.reuters.com/article/uk-usa-biden-homeland-idUKKBN2832I5. ^
  15. Hesson, Ted. “Biden Picks Cuban-American Lawyer Mayorkas as U.S. Homeland Security Chief.” Reuters. Thomson Reuters, November 23, 2020. https://www.reuters.com/article/uk-usa-biden-homeland-idUKKBN2832I5. ^
  16. Hesson , Ted. ABC News. ABC News Network, July 25, 2013. https://abcnews.go.com/ABC_Univision/Politics/meet-alejandro-mayorkas-man-run-homeland-security/story?id=19770760. ^
  17. Jervis, Rick. “Alejandro Mayorkas Fought for Refugees and Dreamers. Can He Undo Four Years of Trump Immigration Policies?” USA Today. Gannett Satellite Information Network, March 4, 2021. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2021/02/05/alejandro-mayorkas-prosecutor-latino-immigrant-biden-homeland-security/4374767001/. ^
  18. “PN640 — Alejandro Nicholas Mayorkas — Department of Homeland Security.” Congress.gov, January 20, 2013. https://web.archive.org/web/20201123224303/https://www.congress.gov/nomination/113th-congress/640. ^
  19. Jervis, Rick. “Alejandro Mayorkas Fought for Refugees and Dreamers. Can He Undo Four Years of Trump Immigration Policies?” USA Today. Gannett Satellite Information Network, March 4, 2021. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2021/02/05/alejandro-mayorkas-prosecutor-latino-immigrant-biden-homeland-security/4374767001/. ^
  20. Marks, Joseph. “Analysis | The Cybersecurity 202: Biden’s DHS Pick Adds Cybersecurity Chops to the Incoming Administration.” The Washington Post. WP Company, November 24, 2020. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2020/11/24/cybersecurity-202-bidens-dhs-pick-adds-cybersecurity-chops-incoming-administration/. ^
  21. McArdle, Mairead. “McConnell Urges Caucus to Oppose Mayorkas for Biden DHS Secretary.” Yahoo! Yahoo!, February 2, 2021. https://www.yahoo.com/entertainment/mcconnell-urges-caucus-oppose-mayorkas-194233708.html. ^
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