Alejandro Mayorkas was sworn in this evening as the first Latino and first immigrant secretary of Homeland Security following a 56-43 confirmation vote in the Senate.
GOP Sens. Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.), Susan Collins (Maine), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Rob Portman (Ohio), Mitt Romney (Utah), and Dan Sullivan (Alaska) were the only Republicans to vote in favor of Mayorkas. All Democrats supported his confirmation.
President Biden announced his intention to nominate the Cuban-born Mayorkas in mid-November. Mayorkas served as deputy secretary at DHS from December 2013 to October 2016, and before that served as director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services from 2009 to 2013.
“DHS bears an extraordinary weight on behalf of the American people, the weight of grave challenges seen and unseen,” Mayorkas said in a statement. “It is the greatest privilege of my life to return to the Department to lead the men and women who dedicate their talent and energy to the safety and security of our nation. I will work every day to ensure that they have the tools they need to execute their missions with honor and integrity. The mission of the Department of Homeland Security is to safeguard the American people, our homeland, and our values. The United States is a welcoming and empathetic nation, one that finds strength in its diversity. I pledge to defend and secure our country without sacrificing these American values.”
Mayorkas’ confirmation was delayed by a Republican hold on his nomination. After Mayorkas’ confirmation hearing before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee nearly two weeks ago, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) said that Mayorkas “has not adequately explained how he will enforce federal law and secure the southern border given President-elect Biden’s promise to roll back major enforcement and security measures.”
Shortly after 6 p.m. today, it took Vice President Kamala Harris about 90 seconds to swear in the new DHS secretary at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. Mayorkas was joined by his wife Tanya and daughters Giselle and Amelia.
“Mr. Mayorkas’ qualifications are unassailable: he is a seven-year veteran of the DHS and has already been confirmed by this chamber three — three — times,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on the floor before the Mayorkas vote. “Like most of President Biden’s cabinet nominees, his nomination is also history-making: he will be the first Latino and first immigrant to hold the top job at DHS.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) argued that Mayorkas “does not deserve Senate confirmation to lead Homeland Security” and called the nominee an “ethically compromised partisan lawyer.”
With Mayorkas by his side in the Oval Office this evening, Biden said, “I’m looking forward to his leadership and working with Congress on a lot of issues, including an immigration bill that has I think great support in both chambers.”
David Pekoske, who had been at the helm of DHS as acting secretary until Mayorkas’ confirmation, will travel to Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday as acting deputy secretary to participate in Super Bowl Security Day.