Alejandro Mayorkas was narrowly confirmed as President Joe Biden’s pick to lead the Department of Homeland Security on Tuesday.
The Senate voted to confirm Mayorkas by a 56-43 vote. Despite being one of Biden’s first Cabinet nominees to receive a hearing and multiple Democrats’ push for him to be quickly confirmed, Mayorkas’s vote was held up by Republicans on multiple occasions.
Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley said that he would block an expedited vote after Mayorkas refused during his hearing to commit $1.4 billion in appropriated funds towards former President Donald Trump’s border wall, and last week Republicans said that they would filibuster his confirmation vote.
Mayorkas is expected to continue rolling back immigration policies adopted by Trump but will be tasked with juggling the simultaneous responses to the pandemic and heightened risks to national security following the Capitol riot.
Mayorkas previously served as the department’s deputy secretary under former President Barack Obama, and also led the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency within it.
Ahead of the Tuesday afternoon vote, Democrats and Republicans were starkly divided on Mayorkas, with Democrats speaking in support and Republicans – some of whom had voted for all of Biden’s earlier nominations – in opposition.
“Up to this point I voted in favor the President’s mainstream nominees to key posts,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. “Mr. Mayorkas is something else. He does not deserve Senate confirmation.”
Mayorkas, who was credited as the architect of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and played a prominent role in the EB-5 visa program, which granted green cards to immigrants who invested at least $500,000 in American companies. Mayorkas was investigated over his role in the program, with Obama’s inspector general concluding that he “exerted improper influence” over his handling of visas sought by an automotive company led by former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe.
After leaving the Obama administration he became a partner at the law firm Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr, where he made $3.3 million, according to financial disclosures filed with the office of government ethics.
Mayorkas is Biden’s sixth Cabinet-level nominee to be confirmed so far. Former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg was overwhelmingly confirmed earlier on Tuesday, while Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen and Secretary of State Antony Blinken were confirmed in January.