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Who is Biden’s Nominee for DHS Secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas?

President-elect Joe Biden will be nominating Alejandro Mayorkas to lead the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the agency that oversees the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Under the Obama administration, Mayorkas served as the head of USCIS and the deputy secretary of DHS. If confirmed by Senate, Mayorkas would be the first Latino and the first immigrant to serve in this position.  

Mayorkas was born in Havana, Cuba, fled the country with his family as political refugees. He is known for developing and implementing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) under the Obama administration. The DACA program allows certain immigrants who entered the United States illegally as minors to remain in the country and receive employment authorization. The Trump administration terminated the DACA program in 2017, but the termination was subsequently overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.

In 2015, Mayorkas was investigated by the Inspector General for his influence on the agency’s administration of the EB-5 investor visa program. The EB-5 program provided green cards to foreign investors who invest $500,000 in high unemployment or rural areas while creating at least 10 jobs for U.S. workers. Investor capital are often pooled to provide stakeholders of large-scale development projects an alternative source of financing.

According to an Inspector General report, Mayorkas may have personally intervened in the adjudication process of EB-5 petitions at the behest of certain stakeholders. One such stakeholder was Tony Rodham, the brother of the then secretary of state, Hillary Clinton. Rodham directed Gulf Coast Funds Management which provided EB-5 financing to GreenTech Automotive Inc., an electric car maker co-founded by former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe.

Despite the controversy, Mayorka’s nomination remains a welcomed change among immigration advocates. Biden’s nomination of someone with extensive immigration expertise highlights the administration’s focus on immigration reform. Nevertheless, with the likely scenario of a divided government, the passing of any comprehensive immigration reform will prove challenging for the new administration.

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