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Secretary of Homeland Security – confirmation needed

Alejandro Mayorkas, nicknamed Ali Mayorkas.

by Deedra Abboud in Political
January 10, 2021 0 comments

President-elect Joe Biden announced his plan to nominate Ali Mayorkas to be Secretary of Homeland Security.

If confirmed, Mayorkas would be the first immigrant and Latino to hold the position.

The position: Advises the president on security issues within the United States. In charge of immigration and border-related issues; the Coast Guard; the Federal Emergency Management Agency; counterterrorism; aviation security and cybersecurity.

Alejandro Nicholas Mayorkas, nicknamed Ali Mayorkas, was born in Havana, Cuba, on November 24, 1959.

His father was a Cuban Jew of Sephardic background who owned and operated a steel wool factory in Havana.

His mother was a Romanian Jew whose family escaped the Holocaust and fled to Cuba in the 1940s. The Cuban Revolution marked the second time his mother would be forced to flee a country she considered home.

His parents arrived with him and his sister to the United States in 1960 as refugees, following the Cuban Revolution. Mayorkas lived in Miami, Florida, before his family moved to Los Angeles, California, where he was raised for the remainder of his youth. Mayorkas grew up in Beverly Hills and attended Beverly Hills High School.

Mayorkas earned his Bachelor of Arts degree with distinction from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1981.

He received his Juris Doctor from Loyola Law School in 1985.

After three years as a litigation associate in private practice, Mayorkas became an Assistant United States Attorney in the Central District of California in 1989. He prosecuted a wide array of federal crimes, developing a specialization in the prosecution of white-collar crime. His prosecutions included the successful prosecution of Operation PolarCap, then the largest money laundering case in the nation; the conviction at trial of Heidi Fleiss [Hollywood Madam] on charges of federal conspiracy, tax fraud, and money laundering charges; the successful prosecutions of two largest telemarketing fraud operations that preyed on the elderly; and the successful prosecution of a health care fraud and insurance fraud conspiracy.

In 1998, Mayorkas was appointed as the United States Attorney for the Central District of California, becoming the country’s youngest United States Attorney.

Mayorkas oversaw the prosecution of high-profile criminal cases, including the prosecution of the Mexican Mafia in death penalty proceedings; the prosecution of white supremacist Buford O. Furrow, Jr. for the murder of a federal postal worker and the hate-motivated shooting of children in a Jewish community center; the prosecution of Litton Industries for the payment of bribes abroad; and the takedown of the violent 18th Street gang using RICO statutes.

In late 2000, Mayorkas was one of many California officials who participated in efforts to obtain executive clemency for narcotics trafficker Carlos Vignali, Jr., the son of a wealthy Los Angeles businessman. On his last day in office in January 2001, Clinton commuted Vignali’s 15-year prison sentence, a controversial decision.

In September 2001, Mayorkas joined O’Melveny & Myers as a litigation partner.

In 2008, The National Law Journal named Mayorkas one of the “50 Most Influential Minority Lawyers in America.”

In 2009, Mayorkas was appointed as the director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). As CIS director, Mayorkas championed United States citizenship, management efficiencies and fiscal responsibility, and safeguarding the integrity of the immigration system. He implemented the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) process in 60 days. He led U.S. government efforts to rescue orphaned children following the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti and led the advancement of a crime victims unit that, for the first time, resulted in the ability of the agency to administer the statutory maximum number of visas to victims of crime.

For his work as director of USCIS, Mayorkas received awards from the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund.

In 2014, Mayorkas was promoted to the position of Deputy Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. Upon his confirmation, he became the highest-ranking Cuban-American in the Obama administration.

As deputy secretary, Mayorkas led DHS’s response to the 2013–14 Ebola virus epidemic and 2015–16 Zika virus epidemic.

His work also focused on cybersecurity. He led the DHS’s negotiations with Israel and China on cybersecurity. A landmark agreement reached in 2015 with the Chinese government reduced, for a brief period, Chinese cyberattacks against American companies aimed at the theft of intellectual property.

After the normalization of U.S.-Cuba relations, Mayorkas led the Obama administration’s delegation to Cuba, and negotiated with the Cuban government on port and cargo security and U.S.-Cuba travel.

Mayorkas was also involved in the Department’s counterterrorism and anti-cybercrime efforts, as well as its public-private partnerships, and efforts to fight antisemitism.

Under Mayorkas’s tenure, DHS greatly expanded its Cyber Crimes Center in Fairfax, Virginia, to aid the department’s efforts to combat various cybercrimes, ranging from child exploitation to computer hacking and intellectual property theft.

Mayorkas was involved in efforts to address DHS’s presence on GAO’s “high-risk list” for management challenges; Mayorkas, as well as Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, acknowledged low morale among DHS employees (a longstanding problem that pre-dated the Obama administration) and took steps aimed at boosting morale.

Mayorkas joined the law firm of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr in the firm’s Washington office from October 2016 until 2020.

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