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Biden has announced Alejandro Mayorkas will serve as DHS Secretary, and Avril Haines to lead National Intelligence. Photo: Getty Images
Biden has announced Alejandro Mayorkas will serve as DHS Secretary, and Avril Haines to lead National Intelligence. Photo: Getty Images

Biden announces first Latino to serve as Secretary of Homeland Security

Biden’s first round of Cabinet announcements make history for Latinos and Women.

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President-Elect Joe Biden’s core cabinet members were announced on Nov. 23, and among the list are several familiar faces from the Obama-era.

Since early November, Cuban-Jewish Attorney Alejandro Mayorkas, 60, was rumored to be in the running to become the next Homeland Security Secretary, and on Nov. 23, the speculation was confirmed.

The former Deputy Secretary of DHS, who has been confirmed by the U.S. Senate three times throughout his career, will become the first Latino and immigrant nominated to serve as DHS secretary in January.

Mayorkas served as Deputy DHS Secretary from 2013 to 2016, and as the Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services from 2009 to 2013 under President Obama.

Born in Havana, Cuba he was the highest-ranking Cuban-American to serve in the Obama-Biden Administration. 

“During his tenure at DHS, he led the implementation of DACA, negotiated cybersecurity and homeland security agreements with foreign governments, led the Department's response to Ebola and Zika, helped build and administer the Blue Campaign to combat human trafficking, and developed an emergency relief program for orphaned youth following the tragic January 2010 earthquake in Haiti,” the Biden campaign said in a statement, adding Mayorkas also created the National Securty Directorate to support legal immigration. 

His family fled the Cuban revolution, and his moderate views and law enforcement background will likely satisfy moderate Democrats and Republicans who value the integrity of legal immigration and border security. To have a Cuban-American serving under Biden may also aid in reshaping the perceptions Cubans in Florida have towards the president-elect. They overwhelmingly voted for President Trump in the 2020 Election.

Mayorkas also has ties with Israel. His mother was a Romanian Jew who fled the holocaust to Cuba. Beyond family, in 2016, he led a deal to automate the sharing of cyber-data between Israel and the U.S. 

In any case, Mayorkas will be tasked with restoring trust with all immigrants and foreign nations that have been subject to the Trump administration’s policies of separating migrant children, building a wall along the Southern Border, implementing travel bans on Muslim-majority countries, and effforts to rescind DACA. 

It is to be seen what a DHS under Mayorkas will look like, but it is no small thing for a department the current administration has weaponized to now be led by a Latino immigrant and political refugee.

“We commend the President-elect’s commitment to a Cabinet and Administration that looks like America. In previous administrations, the highest number of Latinos who have served in Cabinet-level positions was four,” The NALEO Education fund wrote in a statement. 

With Latinos comprising 18 percent of the population, the organization says Biden should make at least five Cabinet-level appointments to reflect the nation’s diversity.

Biden also made history Wednesday by announcing the first woman director of national intelligence.

Avril Haines served as deputy director of the C.I.A. under Obama before taking the role of deputy national security advisor. The New York Times reported she is also a former aide to Biden, and served as his deputy chief counsel to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee from 2007 to 2008 while Biden was chairman.

Haines also served as Obama’s National Security Council, focusing on counterterrorism. If confirmed, she will be the highest-ranking woman to serve in U.S. intelligence.

Throughout the campaign trail, Biden promised to build a government that reflects the diversity of America. These are just the first steps,  but they are favorable towards that promised future.

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