Alejandro Mayorkas

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Person.png Alejandro Mayorkas   SourcewatchRdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
Alejandro Mayorkas2.jpg
BornNovember 24, 1959
Havana, Cuba
Alma materUC Berkeley, Loyola Law School
A lawyer connected to Bill Clinton's pardon of drug smuggler Carlos Vignali. From 2021 head of the Department of Homeland Security where he declared that "false narratives propagated on online platforms" is the new threat.

Employment.png United States Secretary of Homeland Security Wikipedia-icon.png

In office
February 2, 2021 - Present

Alejandro Nicholas Mayorkas is an American lawyer and government official who was United States Secretary of Homeland Security since February 2, 2021. During the Obama administration, he also worked in the Department of Homeland Security, first as Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (2009–2013), and then as Deputy Secretary (2013–2016).

On September 11th 2022, Mayorkas declared that the "threat landscape has evolved" in the 21 years since 9/11 and the new threat is:

"the domestic violent extremist...The individual here in the United States radicalized to violence by a foreign terrorist ideology, but also an ideology of hate, anti-government sentiment, false narratives propagated on online platforms, even personal grievances."[1]

Early life and education

Alejandro Nicholas Mayorkas[2] was born in Havana, Cuba, on November 24, 1959.[3] His father, Charles R. "Nicky" Mayorkas, was born in Cuba, of Sephardi-Ashkenazi Jewish background. Nicky Mayorkas studied economics at Dartmouth College.[4] He owned and operated a steel wool factory on the outskirts of Havana.[5][6][4] It is not known if he had any connections to Fulgencio Batista or Meyer Lansky.

When Alejandro was one year old, his parents fled with him and his sister to the United States in 1960 following the Cuban Revolution. He lived in Miami, Florida, before his family moved to Los Angeles, California, where he was raised for the remainder of his youth.[5] Mayorkas grew up in Beverly Hills and attended Beverly Hills High School.[7]

Alejandro Mayorkas got his Bachelor of Arts from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1981.[8] He received his Juris Doctor from Loyola Law School in 1985.[9]

Commutation of the prison sentence of Carlos Vignali

Mayorkas was the United States Attorney for the Central District of California from 1998 to 2001.[10] According to the Washington Post, this job involved overseeing prosecutions for public corruption, immigration, narcotics trafficking and money laundering.[11]

In 2001, Mayorkas was criticized by the House Committee on Government Reform for his involvement in the commutation of the prison sentence of Carlos Vignali, who had served six years of a fifteen-year sentence for his role in a drug-trafficking operation when he was granted clemency by the then-United-States-President Bill Clinton,[12] one of 176 commutations and pardons performed by Clinton during his last few hours in office.[13]

According to Politico, Mayorkas had phoned the White House to argue that Vignali should be released, apparently in answer to a request by Vignali's father, a well-known Los Angeles businessman.[14] Unknown to Mayorkas, Vignali's father had been suspected of drug trafficking by federal law enforcement, but there had never been enough evidence to bring a case against him. Mayorkas apologized, saying, "It is reasonable to expect that someone in my position would do his or her due diligence to learn that information, ... I made a mistake."[12]

Private law practice

In September 2001, Mayorkas joined O'Melveny & Myers as a litigation partner.[15]

Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

In 2009, Mayorkas was appointed by President Obama as the director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).[3]

In 2015, a Department of Homeland Security inspector general (DHS IG) report criticized Mayorkas' oversight of the EB-5 investor visa program, which offered lawful permanent resident status (green cards) to foreign investors who invested $500,000 into businesses that created jobs in the U.S.[16] The program's popularity greatly increased under Mayorkas's tenure.[16] The DHS IG report, which was the culmination of an investigation beginning in 2013,[17] focused on allegations that politically connected businesses were given special treatment under the program, focusing specifically on the Sahara casino and hotel in Las Vegas, backed by then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and an electric car company led by Terry McAuliffe and involving Anthony Rodham.[16] The report concluded that "The juxtaposition of Mr. Mayorkas' communication with external stakeholders on specific matters outside the normal procedures, coupled with favorable action that deviated from the regulatory scheme designed to ensure fairness and evenhandedness in adjudicating benefits, created an appearance of favoritism and special access."[16] The "fast-tracking" of approvals for individuals involved in the casino program was made over the objections of USCIS analysts "who were suspicious about the source of the funds".[18]

Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security

Nominated by President Obama in June 2013, Mayorkas was confirmed as the deputy secretary on December 20, 2014, following a party-line Senate vote.[19]

As deputy secretary, Mayorkas's led DHS's biosecurity program in the (non-existent) 2013–14 Ebola virus epidemic and 2015–16 Zika virus epidemic.[20] His work also focused on expansion of "cybersecurity".[21]

He led the DHS's negotiations with Israel and China on "cybersecurity".[22] After the normalization of U.S.-Cuba relations, Mayorkas led the Obama administration's delegation to Cuba,[22] and negotiated with the Cuban government on port and cargo security and U.S.-Cuba travel.[23]

Mayorkas was also involved in the Department's counterterrorism and anti-cybercrime efforts, as well as its public-private partnerships (handing $$$ to private contractors),[24] and expansion to fight antisemitism.[23]

Under Mayorkas's tenure, DHS greatly expanded its Cyber Crimes Center in Fairfax, Virginia[25]

Return to private practice, 2017–2020

In October 2016, Mayorkas joined the law firm of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr in the firm's Washington office.[26]

Secretary of Homeland Security

President-elect Joe Biden announced his plan to nominate Mayorkas to be Secretary of Homeland Security. He was sworn in on February 2, 2021, after his confirmation that day.[27] Testifying to the Homeland Security Subcommittee of the House Committee on Appropriations on April 27, 2022, Mayorkas confirmed that the Biden Administration will implement a "Disinformation Working Group" in the DHS with the intention to "develop guidelines, standards, [and] guardrails" to shape the department's longstanding effort to counter disinformation.[28][29] Three weeks later, after critics called the initiative a violation of free speech and its executive director Nina Jankowicz had resigned, the Disinformation Woking Group was "paused".[30]

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  7. Johnson 2000, pp. 70, 76.
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