Biden selects Cuban-born Jew to head Department of Homeland Security

If Biden becomes president and Mayorkas is confirmed, he would be the first immigrant to lead the Department of Homeland Security.

By Josh Plank, World Israel News

The Biden-Harris transition team announced Monday the selection of Alejandro Mayorkas, a Cuban-born Jewish attorney, for the position of Secretary of Homeland Security.

“It is no small task to lead the Department of Homeland Security [DHS], but I will work to restore faith in our institutions and protect our security here at home,” tweeted Mayorkas.

“When I was very young, the United States provided my family and me a place of refuge. 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,” he said.

If Biden becomes president and Mayorkas is confirmed, he would be the first immigrant to lead the DHS, which is responsible for border security, immigration enforcement, cybersecurity, and disaster readiness and relief. It encompasses the U.S. Coast Guard and Secret Service.

Mayorkas was born in Havana, Cuba, in 1959 to a Cuban-Jewish father and Romanian-Jewish mother whose family escaped the Holocaust and fled to Cuba in the 1940s.

Mayorkas’ family came to the U.S. in 1960 as refugees, following the Cuban Revolution, and eventually settled in California.

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Mayorkas served as the DHS deputy secretary under the Obama-Biden administration from 2013 to 2016.

He was the director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services from 2009 to 2013 and led the development and implementation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which granted permanent resident status to illegal aliens who were brought to the U.S. as children.

Mayorkas has relatives living in Israel and has visited the Jewish state several times over the years, both privately and in his capacity as DHS deputy secretary.

During his first visit in 1977, Mayorkas visited family, toured the country, and worked on a kibbutz.

Mayorkas’ confirmation could face opposition from Senate Republicans, who tried unsuccessfully to block Mayorkas’ confirmation as DHS deputy director in 2013.

At the time, Mayorkas was being investigated for his role in helping prominent Democrats, including Tony Rodham, navigate the EB-5 visa program, which grants green cards to foreigners who invest at least $500,000 in American companies.

Rodham’s sister, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, tweeted her approval of the Biden team’s selection of Mayorkas on Monday.

“I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Amb. Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Avril Haines, and Alejandro Mayorkas in action and all are utter professionals,” Clinton said.