Alejandro Nicholas Mayorkas was born on November 24, 1959, in Havana, Cuba. His mother, Anita Gabor, was a Romanian-born Jew who escaped the Holocaust. The Mayorkas family fled Cuba shortly that nation’s government was overthrown by Fidel Castro and Che Guevara, and they migrated to the United States as refugees in 1960.
Mayorkas earned a bachelor’s degree with distinction from UC Berkeley in 1981, and a Juris Doctor degree from Loyola Law School in 1985. After completing his formal schooling, he worked for three years as a litigation associate in private practice.
In 1989 Mayorkas began a nine-year stint as an Assistant United States Attorney (AUSA) for the Central District of California in Los Angeles, where he specialized in the prosecution of white-collar crimes such as tax evasion and money laundering. From 1996-98, Mayorkas served as chief of the General Crimes Section of his AUSA office. He also spent some time as the coordinator of the Southern California Telemarketing Fraud Task Force.
In September 2001, Mayorkas left government and became a litigation partner at the law firm of O’Melveny & Myers.
In November 2008, President-elect Barack Obama selected Mayorkas to lead the presidential transition team responsible for the U.S. Department of Justice’s Criminal Division.
In the Obama administration, Mayorkas served as director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) from 2009 to 2013, and then as deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) from 2013 to 2016.
During his tenure in Obama’s DHS, Mayorkas played a big role in implementing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that allowed illegal aliens who had been brought to the U.S. as minors, to stay in the country for the time being. He also negotiated cybersecurity and homeland security agreements with foreign governments; led the Department’s response to the Ebola (2013-14) and Zika (2015-16) virus epidemics; helped create and run the Blue Campaign to combat human trafficking; developed an emergency relief program for orphaned youth after the devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti; and created the Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate.
Mayorkas again left government after Democrat Barack Obama’s tenure as president was over. From October 2017 to November 2020, Mayorkas worked in the Washington office of the Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr law firm.
On November 23, 2020, President-elect Joe Biden nominated Mayorkas as secretary of DHS.
Mayorkas was one of the first of Biden’s cabinet nominees to encounter significant opposition from Republican senators, The Hill newspaper reported. Senator John Cornyn, for instance, wanted Mayorkas to go through a second confirmation hearing before the Judiciary Committee, and Senator Josh Hawley put a hold on Mayorkas’ nomination because: (a) he felt that Mayorkas was likely to back Biden’s move to delay or derail any further construction of the border wall, and (b) he said that Mayorkas had not “adequately explained how he will enforce federal law and secure the southern border.”
Some Republicans also expressed concern about a 2015 Inspector General (IG) report that determined that during Mayorkas’ tenure as CIS director, he had inserted himself into the evaluation process in EB-5 Immigrant Investor Visa Program cases that, if approved, would specifically benefit Chinese nationals who had ties to Democrats. As Vox.com explained in March 2015: “In each of the four incidents the [IG] report looked at, Mayorkas did slightly different things to urge colleagues to reconsider decisions they’d made — after being in contact with powerful Democrats affiliated with the projects. The report names four men as beneficiaries of Mayorkas’s attention: Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell; Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid; Hillary Clinton‘s brother, Anthony Rodham; and current Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe.” Republican Senator Tom Cotton told Fox & Friends that Mayorkas “was found by Barack Obama’s Inspector General to be guilty of selling green cards [through EB-5] to Chinese nationals on behalf of rich Democratic donors.” “Think about that,” Cotton added. “Selling citizenship to well-connected Chinese nationals on behalf of Democratic Party donors. That is disqualifying to lead the Department of Homeland Security.”
On February 2, 2021, Mayorkas was confirmed by the Senate on a 56–43 vote. That same day, he was sworn in to office by Vice President Kamala Harris, thus becoming the first Latino and the first immigrant ever to serve as DHS secretary.
At a March 1, 2021 press conference at the White House, Mayorkas emphasized his intent to deal with the many Central American migrants who in 2018 had brought their children to the United States in an effort to exploit the so-called Flores loophole in American immigration law — a loophole that required U.S. immigration authorities to release—within 20 days—all children apprehended while crossing the border illegally, whether or not they were accompanied by an adult. Breitbart.com explains how that requirement eventually led to the long-term “separation” of the adult migrants from their children: “[President] Trump temporarily blocked the migrant pathway by charging thousands of migrants with illegal migration while keeping their children sheltered elsewhere. However, Trump dropped the tactic when Democrats, immigration lawyers, and media outlets portrayed the successful enforcement project as a ‘kids in cages’ scandal, so generating a massive emotional reaction from Democrat voters. After Trump dropped the tactic, a few hundred of the foreign families left their children with relatives in the United States — and then refused contact with the U.S. government.”
At the March 1 press conference, Mayorkas said that in an effort to “reunite” the adult migrants with their children:
“We are working closely with counsel for the separated family members. We are doing it along with the countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. I spoke with the foreign minister of each of those countries this past Friday. We are doing it with nongovernmental organizations, and we intend to and will shortly harness the capabilities, resources, and desire of the private sector, This is not only an all-of-government, but an all-of-society effort to do what is right. We are hoping to reunite the [several hundred] families, either here or in the country of origin. We hope to be in a position to give them [the choice]. And if, in fact, they seek to reunite here in the United States, we will explore lawful pathways for them to remain in the United States, and to address the family needs, so we are acting as restoratively as possible …”
Also on March 1, 2021, a reporter asked Mayorkas if he believed, in light of the massive number of migrants and unaccompanied minors who had been crossing illegally from Mexico into the United States ever since President Biden’s inauguration, that there was a crisis on America’s southern border. Mayorkas replied: “I think the answer is no. I think there is a challenge at the border that we are managing, and we have our resources dedicated to managing it.”
On March 9, 2021, Mayorkas announced that the federal government would no longer defend in court the Trump-era “public charge” rule that required prospective immigrants to be able to support themselves financially. “The 2019 public charge rule was not in keeping with our nation’s values,” said Mayorkas. “It penalized those who access health benefits and other government services available to them. Consistent with the President’s [Biden’s] vision, we will continue to implement reforms that improve our legal immigration system.”
During a March 17, 2021 hearing before the House Homeland Security Committee, Republican Congresswoman Kat Cammack asked Mayorkas about Americans who had been the victims of crimes committed by illegal aliens. The exchange went as follows:
CAMMACK: I’m from a small town out West, and the month before I was supposed to graduate high school, which was 2006, one of my classmates was kidnapped [at knifepoint] by an illegal [25-year-old Pedro Martinez] who had been deported multiple times [after felony convictions]. And I think when you have policies that incentivize folks to come over illegally, and we don’t have the proper mechanisms in place to protect our borders … that kind of impact has resounding effects. So my question to you, her name was Amber Scott — the young lady who was kidnapped by this illegal criminal — how many more Ambers have to be kidnapped across America before you will take action?
MAYORKAS: Congresswoman, I find that question to be extraordinarily disrespectful. Disrespectful not only to me, but disrespectful to the men and women of Homeland Security and to all the frontline personnel throughout this country who dedicate themselves to the safety and security of the American people.
CAMMACK: I’m sorry that you feel that way. … I’m sure the American people feel very disrespected about the border situation we’re facing right now.
On March 19, 2021, TheBlaze.com reported that Mayorkas, during an interview on CBS This Morning, had spoken about a Biden Administration program that would allow parents lawfully residing in the U.S. to request refugee status for their children in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. Mayorkas noted that despite the enactment of this program — which was originally an Obama initiative that President Trump subsequently discontinued — some minors might attempt to enter the United States illegally. Said Mayorkas: “We well understand that out of desperation, some children might not wait. Some loving parents might send their child to traverse Mexico alone to reach the southern border — our southern border. I hope they don’t undertake that perilous journey. But if they do, we will not expel that young child. We will care for that young child and unite that child with a responsible parent. That is who we are as a nation and we can do it.”
On April 22, 2021, Mayorkas unveiled a DHS strategy to combat the supposedly manmade phenomenon of global warming. “The climate crisis poses a multi-level threat to the American people, the global community, and DHS operations at home and abroad,” said DHS in a statement. “It is vital for the Department to provide leadership and act to minimize its own environmental impact, to promote resilience against the risks posed by climate change, and to facilitate adaptation, so as to reduce harms and threats to the American people and abroad. Addressing the climate emergency is a priority for DHS as sea-level rise, extreme weather events, workforce health, and other direct and indirect impacts of climate change will affect the Nation’s preparedness and national security over the long term. To combat this ongoing threat, DHS will implement a new approach to climate change adaptation and resilience, and it will do so with the sense of urgency this problem demands.”
On April 27, 2021, Mayorkas undermined the border-protection efforts of DHS by ordering that agents of the Immigration & Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) and the U.S. Border Patrol should not take criminal aliens into custody at courthouses, even if those aliens were wanted by law-enforcement authorities. “Ensuring that individuals have access to the courts advances the fair administration of justice, promotes safety for crime victims, and helps to guarantee equal protection under the law,” Mayorkas said. “The expansion of civil immigration arrests at courthouses during the prior administration had a chilling effect on individuals’ willingness to come to court or work cooperatively with law enforcement.” DHS said that thenceforth, a civil immigration enforcement action “may be taken in or near a courthouse only in certain limited instances, including the following: (1) it involves a national security matter, (2) there is an imminent risk of death, violence, or physical harm to any person, (3) it involves hot pursuit of an individual who poses a threat to public safety, or (4) there is an imminent risk of destruction of evidence material to a criminal case.”
On May 25, 2021 — the anniversary of the infamous death in Minneapolis police custody of a longtime black criminal named George Floyd — Mayorkas took to Twitter to issue a statement even though DHS had nothing to do with the events of that day. Tweeted Mayorkas: “Today we recognize the solemn anniversary of George Floyd’s murder [sic]. @DHSgov recommits to holding ourselves to the highest standards of our profession. In doing so, we reaffirm our obligation to a safer, more equitable Nation for all.”
As civil unrest roiled his native land of Cuba in the summer of 2021, when Cubans flooded the streets with protesters demanding freedom from the oppression of their Communist government, Mayorkas tweeted on July 13: “We also stand in solidarity w/the Cuban people & their call for freedom from the repression & economic suffering that Cuba’s authoritarian regime is causing.” But at the same time, the Biden administration slammed the door on the possibility of accepting Communism-hating refugees from Cuba (who, if they were ever to become U.S. citizens, would be likely to vote Republican). Mayorkas tweeted a warning to his former countrymen: “The time is never right to attempt migration by sea. To those who risk their lives doing so, this risk is not worth taking. Allow me to be clear: if you take to the sea, you will not come to the United States.”
Just the month before, Mayorkas had celebrated his own family’s escape from Communist Cuba when he tweeted on June 23, 2021: “I became an immigrant to the United States in 1960, when my family fled the communist takeover of Cuba. I am proud of my identity as an immigrant, a naturalized U.S. citizen, and a Latino.”
Mayorkas routinely articulated the leftist claim that DACA recipients were already essentially American by virtue of having been allowed to stay in the U.S. for years. On June 15, 2021, he tweeted: “These young people grew up in our neighborhoods, studied with our children in school, played on the same sports teams, and celebrated decades of birthdays and holidays here in the United States. They are Americans in every way but on paper.”
In July 2021, U.S. District Court Judge Andrew Hanen found that DACA was unlawful and that DHS could no longer accept new DACA applicants, though he said the Department could continue processing DACA renewals for the time being as the issue worked its way through appeals courts. President Biden said the ruling was “deeply disappointing” and vowed to appeal it. Mayorkas, too, said he was “disappointed” by the decision, but vowed that it would “not derail our efforts to protect Dreamers” (people who had first come to the U.S. illegally as minors). Said Mayorkas: “The Biden-Harris Administration—and this country—remain as committed as ever to ensuring that Dreamers are protected from the threat of deportation and are allowed to continue to contribute to this country that is their home. … In January, President Biden offered a legislative proposal, and in March the House of Representatives passed the ‘American Dream and Promise Act.’ I urge Congress to act swiftly to enact legislation through the reconciliation process to provide permanent protection that the American people want and Dreamers have earned.”
On July 23, 2021, Breitbart.com published a brief overview of the disastrous immigration policies that Mayorkas had helped implement thus far under President Biden:
“President Joe Biden and his deputies have allowed more than 600,000 migrants to come across the porous southern border in just six months since his January inauguration. The huge inflow adds up to one migrant for every three children born in the United States during the same period in 2020. The post-January 20 southern 600,000 inflow includes the 327,501 migrants allowed through the border into the United States under Title 8 of the nation’s immigration laws, plus the roughly 300,000 “got-away” migrants who evaded the U.S. border patrol. The inflow total does not include the migrants blocked at the border, nor the usual inflow of one million legal immigrants per year into a nation where roughly 3.7 million babies are born each year. […]
“DHS chief Alejandro Mayorkas is carefully opening many side doors in the border for migrants. For example, he has gradually raised the number of migrants who get through the Title 42 health barrier, from 14,000 in January up to 83,922 in June. That number is 25 times as many as the 3,320 migrants allowed through Trump’s Title 42 barrier in June 2020.
“Mayorkas is also making it easier for economic migrants to sneak past the border. In 2020, only about 69,000 migrants successfully got past Trump’s border, at a rate of roughly 5,750 migrants per month. However, under Mayorkas’ lenient policies, the rising inflow brought 50,000 illegal migrants across from mid-June to mid-July, an agency source told Breitbart News.
“Under Trump, the detained migrants were often flown a thousand miles back to their countries for free. But Mayorkas instead directs his officers to shuttle the detained migrants back to a jumping-off point on the Mexican side of the border, where they rest up for another attempt.
“Also, Mayorkas has largely abolished deportations and worksite actions by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency for the migrants who do sneak past the border. And his fellow Democrats are promising to amnesty all migrants who can persuade Democrat-overseen clerks that they arrived before January 2021.”
On July 30, 2021, Mayorkas awarded Temporary Protected Status (TPS), which permits migrants to stay and work in the U.S., to 100,000 Haitian migrants, including many thousands who had recently walked illegally into the U.S. across its southern border.
In an August 2, 2021 interview with NBC newswoman Andrea Mitchell, Mayorkas blamed former President Donald Trump for the record wave of migrants who were now crossing the U.S. border during the Biden Administration. “We certainly have a challenge at the border,” said Mayorkas. “We’re following an administration that frankly dismantled our capabilities to address it, and so we are building it from the ground up. We lost four years of investing in the countries from which these individuals are migrating. Our safe and orderly systems were torn down, so we’re rebuilding them. And our plan is in place, and we’re executing it.”
On August 3, 2021, Mayorkas announced that he was extending, by 13 additional months, the deadline by which Venezuelans in the United States could apply for TPS status. Mayorkas’ DHS said in a statement: “The Department of Homeland Security today published a Federal Register notice (FRN) announcing extensions of the registration periods from 180 days to 18 months for initial (new) applicants for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) under the designations of Venezuela…. The 18-month registration period for initial applications under the TPS designation of Venezuela now runs through Sept. 9, 2022.” Noting that Venezuelans now had until September 2022 to walk across the Mexican border using fake identities — and to subsequently file for TPS asylum with valid ID documents — Center for Immigration Studies analyst Rob Law, a former top official at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency, said of the new deadline:
On August 13, 2021, Fox News obtained a leaked audio in which Mayorkas, who had theretofore been careful to describe the border situation as a “challenge” rather than a “crisis,” spoke to Border Patrol agents in Texas where he conceded that conditions on the border were “unsustainable.” “The other day I was in Mexico, and I said, if our border is our first line of defense, we’re going to lose and this is unsustainable,” Mayorkas told the agents. “We can’t continue like this, our people in the field can’t continue and our system isn’t built for it.”
During the week of September 19, 2021 – by which time more than 14,000 Haitians had recently gathered under a bridge on the banks of the Rio Grande in hopes of gaining approval for asylum in the U.S. — the media were abuzz with accusations claiming that Border Patrol agents were using whips to prevent those Haitians from illegally entering the United States. Specifically, the controversy was sparked by photographs of agents mounted on horseback attempting to corral incoming migrants. Some photos showed the agents twirling their reins to coax the horses in certain directions. Many critics misidentified the reins as whips that were being used to harm and degrade the migrants.
Paul Ratje, the photographer responsible for the images in question, said that neither he nor any of his colleagues had seen Border Patrol agents whipping anyone. “Some of the Haitian men started running, trying to go around the horses, and that’s when the whole thing happened,” Ratje explained. “I never saw them whip anyone. The agent was swinging the reins that to some can be misconstrued when you’re looking at the pictures.”
Rowdy Ballard — who, prior to retiring, had spent 17 years on horseback for the Border Patrol and had served 6 years as the horse coordinator for Del Rio, Texas — told Fox News: “We all have the same message: we don’t carry whips.” Explaining that the Border Patrol does not train its agents to whip illegal migrants, and that those agents hardly ever place their hands on people “unless they’re not compliant,” Ballard said on America’s Newsroom: “It was a tense situation. The horses were a little reluctant to do the job that the agents were asking… twirling the reins was just another tool they used to get the horses to do what they’re asking.”
Notwithstanding the fact that the “whipping” claims were entirely false, the Biden Administration quickly announced that: (a) horse patrols at the border would be immediately suspended pending further investigation of the charges, and (b) the specific agents in the aforementioned photos would remain on administrative duty while the probe was being conducted. Biden’s announcement prompted Rowdy Ballard to say: “The horse is a great tool we’ve used [at the Border Patrol] for almost 100 years now. And with that going, it’s going to be harder to patrol that area.”
Mayorkas said that a full investigation of the matter was warranted. “One cannot weaponize a horse to aggressively attack a child,” he stated. “That is unacceptable. That is not what our policies and our training require. Please understand, let me be quite clear, that is not acceptable. We will not tolerate mistreatment, and we will address it with full force based on the facts that we learn.”
At a White House press briefing, Mayorkas said: “Those images painfully conjured up the worst elements of our nation’s ongoing battle against systemic racism.” When asked if he might consider eliminating the Border Patrol’s horse unit entirely, he said he would “take a look” at the possibility.
Between September 9 and 24, 2021, approximately 30,000 mostly Haitian migrants illegally crossed America’s southern border and gathered in Del Rio, Texas, where they hoped to be granted asylum. By September 25, approximately 12,400 of them had been released into the U.S. interior with instructions to report for immigration court hearings sometime in the future, while another 5,000 were being processed by DHS to determine whether they would be sent back to Haiti or permitted to pursue their immigration/asylum cases.
On September 26, 2021, Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace asked Mayorkas: “You say 30,000 people walked across … into Del Rio in the last 17 days. Question: Why didn’t you stop them?” “We encounter them at the border. That’s where we encounter them, Chris,” Mayorkas replied.
Wallace then asked: “Why didn’t you stop them from coming into the country?” “We did,” Mayorkas stated. “We encountered them, they gathered – they assembled in that one location in Del Rio, Texas, and we applied the laws. We applied the public health law under the CDC’s authority, and we applied immigration –”
“My question is why did you allow them in the country in the first place?” Wallace replied. “Why didn’t you build, forgive me, a wall or a fence to stop them from walking – the flood of people coming across the dam, it looks like a highway that allows them to cross the Rio Grande.” “It is the policy of this administration, we do not agree with the building of the wall,” Mayorkas insisted, explaining that permitting individuals to seek humanitarian relief was “one of our proudest traditions.”
In an October 12, 2021 memo issued to the Citizenship & Immigration Services (CIS) and Customs & Border Protection (CBP) agencies, Mayorkas announced that the DHS would now end all mass immigration-enforcement operations at worksites in the United States. Asserting that such operations should target employers of illegal migrants, rather than the migrants themselves, Mayorkas wrote: “The deployment of mass worksite operations, sometimes resulting in the simultaneous arrest of hundreds of workers, was not focused on the most pernicious aspect of our country’s unauthorized employment challenge: exploitative employers. These highly visible operations misallocated enforcement resources while chilling, and even serving as a tool of retaliation for, worker cooperation in workplace standards investigations.”
Further Reading: “Alejandro Mayorkas” (DHS.gov)