Immigrant rights defenders were encouraged by President-elect Joe Biden's Monday nomination of Alejandro Mayorkas for Secretary of Homeland Security and expressed hope that the first Latino and immigrant to lead the department will implement humane immigration policies to reverse the damage inflicted by President Donald Trump.
"After the cruelty and devastation wrought by the Trump administration, Mayorkas has a mandate to overhaul DHS."
—Rep. Joaquin Castro
Arturo Vargas, CEO of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO), said that "Mayorkas' keen knowledge of our immigration policies and procedures, as well as his commitment to a fair immigration system, makes him exceptionally qualified."
Citing his work at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), Vargas pointed out that "in addition to his tireless work to make naturalization accessible and affordable, Mayorkas oversaw the building and implementation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program," which Trump has attempted to dismantle.
"His work at USCIS also included promoting the importance of working with stakeholders and community organizations," Vargas added, "where he created the Office of Public Engagement, helping promote and strengthen those relationships."
Adding to the chorus of approval for Mayorkas was Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. Castro said the CHC is eager to work with the nominee to "treat immigrants with dignity and respect."
"A dedicated public servant and Cuban immigrant, Alejandro Mayorkas is a fantastic choice to lead DHS," Castro said. "After the cruelty and devastation wrought by the Trump administration, Mayorkas has a mandate to overhaul DHS."
"As the former deputy secretary of DHS and lead implementer of DACA," Castro added, "he has the necessary experience to bring about much needed reforms."
NALEO and CHC's positive assessments of Mayorkas were mirrored by the leaders of numerous immigrant right organizations.
"Welcomed news," tweeted Greisa Martínez Rosas, executive director of United We Dream.
Welcomed news. Ali Mayorkas will be first Latino to lead DHS. Has been confirmed by Senate 3 times. Helped make DACA a reality.— Greisa Martínez Rosas (@GreisaMartinez) November 23, 2020
He has a clear mandate w/ Pres. elect Biden to enact BOLD & SWIFT executive actions that bring accountability to ICE & CBP & reunite our loved ones. https://t.co/UFXxlarBI0
Nicole Melaku, executive director of the National Partnership for New Americans (NPNA), said that her organization finds the nomination of Mayorkas encouraging.
"DHS is in dire need of a course correction," Melaku noted, "and we welcome its transition from an enforcement-focused agency to one that prioritizes eliminating barriers in order to achieve greater immigrant and refugee inclusion in our country."
The NPNA "look[s] forward to working with Secretary Mayorkas and the Biden administration to move our country forward, make immediate and urgently needed changes to federal immigration policy, and bring into focus a new vision for how this country treats immigrant and refugee communities," she added.
Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center (NILC), said that "we are thrilled with... [the] historic selection," which she called "an exemplary choice that will not only serve our next president and the American people well, but also sends a strong signal to immigrant communities that the Biden administration fully intends to follow through on their commitment to undo the harms of the Trump administration."
Hincapié described Mayorkas as "someone who will listen to the voices of immigrant communities and will remain responsive to their concerns."
"Mayorkas has a deep understanding of the complex immigration laws and policies impacting the country," Hincapié added. "He is compassionate, fair, and deeply committed to restoring due process to our system."
RAICES, an immigration legal services nonprofit, expressed hope that Mayorkas will "change the direction of DHS once and for all."
Acknowledging the "crucial role" that he played in creating DACA, the organization "look[s] forward to the immediate expansion of the program and the dismantling of the detention and deportation machine that was created under Obama and expanded by Trump."
DHS "was built in the wake of 9/11 to protect the U.S. from terrorists," RAICES noted, "only for it to now be used to terrorize immigrants."
In order for the Biden administration to "immediately change course," the group called for "eliminating the 'good vs bad immigrant' narrative."
RAICES also advocated for "dismantling rogue agencies like Immigration and Customs Enforement and Customs and Border Protection in order to prevent further human rights abuses at the border and the interior of the country."