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Senate confirms Mayorkas, Biden’s homeland security chief

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Alejandro Mayorkas is anticipated to steer a broad coverage overhaul of an company that was accused of being deeply politicized below Trump.

The Senate confirmed Alejandro Mayorkas on Tuesday as President Joe Biden’s homeland safety secretary, the primary Latino to fill a publish that can have a central position within the authorities’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, a sweeping Russia-linked cyber hack and home extremism.

Mayorkas was confirmed by a 56-43 vote, the narrowest margin but for a Biden Cupboard nominee. The primary immigrant to serve within the job, he’s anticipated to steer a broad coverage overhaul of an company that was accused of being deeply politicized because it carried out President Donald Trump’s initiatives on immigration and regulation enforcement.

Mayorkas is a former federal prosecutor who beforehand served as a senior DHS official. His nomination was stalled within the Senate by Republicans who needed to query him additional on Biden’s plans for immigration coverage. He additionally confronted questions over his administration of an investor visa program below President Barack Obama.

Biden’s crew had hoped to have Mayorkas confirmed by Jan. 20. However Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri positioned a maintain on the nomination on Jan. 19, forcing a delay within the affirmation vote.

Democrats bristled on the delay. 

“My buddies on the opposite facet do not must agree with Mr. Mayorkas on the finer factors of each coverage, however certainly we will all agree that he is aware of the division, he understands the threats to our nation’s safety and has what it takes to steer DHS,” Senate Majority Chief Chuck Schumer mentioned as he known as for a vote to elevate a Republican filibuster on the nomination. 

Even some Republican senators who had expressed reservations in regards to the nomination conceded DHS wanted a confirmed secretary with the nation dealing with so many challenges, together with the aftermath of the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol by Trump supporters searching for to overturn the election.

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“I drove by the Nationwide Guard once more to get right here this morning. We have some actual points,” Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio mentioned as he voted to ship the nomination from the committee to the complete Senate for the vote. 

Mayorkas, whose household got here to the U.S. from Cuba as refugees in 1960 and whose mom had fled the Holocaust, was a federal prosecutor in Southern California earlier than he joined the Obama administration, first as head of the immigration providers company after which as deputy secretary of DHS.

“Mr. Mayorkas is uniquely certified to ensure the Division of Homeland Safety is working to guard folks from all backgrounds, all communities and all walks of life,” Sen. Gary Peters, a Michigan Democrat and chairman of the Senate Homeland Safety Committee, mentioned from the Senate flooring. 

Beneath Trump, the division was often in turmoil and mired in controversy. The company carried out heavy-handed immigration enforcement initiatives, most notoriously separating migrant youngsters from their households as a part of a zero-tolerance marketing campaign in 2018. 

Over the summer time, the division was broadly condemned, together with by some former secretaries, for deploying tactical brokers with out nametags and insignia to protests in Portland, Oregon, in opposition to the desires of native authorities.

In September, a senior official filed a whistleblower criticism accusing Homeland Safety leaders of downplaying risk warnings that Trump would possibly discover objectionable, together with details about Russian election interference and the rising risk posed by white supremacists. And the president ousted the broadly revered head of the DHS cybersecurity company in November for his protection of the integrity of the 2020 election.

Appearing DHS Secretary Chad Wolf, who spent greater than a yr within the publish with out Senate affirmation, and different senior officers turned routine information conferences into what to many seemed to be Trump marketing campaign occasions, touting comparatively minor enforcement actions as main coverage achievements.

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Mayorkas, who rejected a proposal to separate households when he served below Obama, has pledged to “finish the inhumane and unjust remedy of immigrants,” but in addition to keep up border enforcement.

“We’re a nation of immigrants, and we’re additionally a nation of legal guidelines,” he mentioned throughout his affirmation listening to. 

Brandon Judd, president of the Nationwide Border Patrol Council, which represents U.S. Border Patrol brokers and others, mentioned in a current interview with the Fox Enterprise Community that migrant smugglers have elevated their makes an attempt to convey folks, together with youngsters, into the nation due to a notion that the Biden administration can be much less hostile. However he mentioned he was “optimistic” in regards to the new president’s alternative of Mayorkas.

“He has nominated an excellent secretary for DHS, a secretary that understands that insurance policies have an effect on border safety,” he mentioned. 

Judd predicted Mayorkas would eliminate some Trump insurance policies however search for others that might “effectuate the identical factor” as was performed below the earlier administration. “And if he can try this, then we will nonetheless keep border safety.” 

At Mayorkas’ affirmation listening to, senators raised the 2015 report by the Workplace of Inspector Common that criticized him for his administration of a program that granted U.S. residency to international traders. The investigation discovered he created an look of favoritism and political interference by directing the approval of three initiatives backed by outstanding Democrats, overruling workers suggestions when he ran the immigration providers company below Obama. 

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Republican Senate chief Mitch McConnell denounced him on the Senate flooring Tuesday, saying Mayorkas ought to be stored from even a decrease publish for offering particular remedy to outstanding figures reminiscent of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s brother, Anthony Rodham, and former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe. “Mr. Mayorkas did his finest to show U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Providers into an unethical favor manufacturing facility for Democratic Celebration royalty,” he mentioned. 

Mayorkas disputed the IG report’s conclusion and informed senators he intervened in selections, on behalf of each Republicans and Democrats, to appropriate what he thought-about flawed actions. “When a pacesetter enters federal service with the authority to repair issues, that chief has the accountability to repair issues, and that’s what I did,” he mentioned.

Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, one other Republican member of the Homeland Safety Committee who voted to ship the nomination to the Senate flooring for a vote, mentioned he mentioned the report at size with Mayorkas in non-public and was glad he thought-about his motion an “error” that he wouldn’t repeat. 

“We simply endured a president over 4 years that I am going to say generously had a relaxed relationship with the reality and I feel we would like the best degree of integrity in positions of presidency,” Romney mentioned. 

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