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The Senate on Tuesday confirmed Alejandro Mayorkas as President Biden’s homeland security secretary, making him the first immigrant to hold the position — despite opposition from a number of Republicans to his nomination.
Mayorkas, a former head of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and deputy Homeland Security secretary, was confirmed 56-43.
MCCONNELL RIPS DHS NOMINEE MAYORKAS FOR CREATING AN ‘UNETHICAL FAVOR FACTORY FOR DEMOCRATIC ROYALTY’
He takes control of the department at a time when it faces the challenge of the continued threat of violence in the wake of the Jan. 6 riots in Washington D.C., as well as the implementation of sweeping immigration changes by the Biden administration.
Last month, DHS implemented a 100-day moratorium on deportations of illegal immigrants, but it was immediately hit by a legal challenge from Texas. Biden has ended the Trump-era travel bans and stopped construction of a border wall. He has also proposed an immigration bill that would grant legal status and a pathway to citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants.
ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS: WHAT TO KNOW ABOUT BIDEN’S DHS PICK
Mayorkas served as head of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) from 2009 until 2013, after which he was picked to be deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.
During the Obama administration, he was a key figure in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which shielded illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. as children from deportation.
Homeland Security Secretary nominee Alejandro Mayorkas testifies during his confirmation hearing in the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Bill Clark/Pool via AP)
The committee held a confirmation hearing for Mayorkas last month, but quick passage was delayed by Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., who cited Biden’s immigration plan as a reason for imposing the hurdle.
Other Republicans issued other objections to Mayorkas, including a 2015 inspector general report that found Mayorkas intervened to help foreign investors in the EB-5 visa program who were connected to top Democrats.
BIDEN DHS PICK MAYORKAS INTERVENED TO HELP DEMOCRAT-CONNECTED FOREIGN INVESTORS: IG
In one case, Mayorkas “pressured staff” to expedite the review of a Las Vegas hotel and casino investment at the request of then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, according to the inspector general report from 2015.
GOP Senate leader Mitch McConnell called Mayorkas an “ethically-compromised partisan lawyer” who abused his power during the Obama administration and urged colleagues to vote against him.
“As a high-ranking official in the Obama administration, Mr. Mayorkas did his best to turn U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services [USCIS] into an unethical favor factory for Democratic Party royalty,” McConnell, R-Ky., said.
Earlier Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., praised Mayorkas’ qualifications and the history-making nomination.
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“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,” Schumer said. “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.”
Mayorkas’ chances of getting confirmed were helped by support from past DHS officials, including those who served in the Trump administration.
“I do think he’s qualified,” former acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf told ABC News. “Are his views and his policies the one that I would have picked? Probably not. But that’s not to say he’s not qualified, just like I’m sure he would say, my views and policies are not his liking either.”
Fox News’ Marisa Schultz and Evie Fordham contributed to this report.
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