SAN ANTONIO – President-elect Joe Biden has made history by choosing the first Latino and immigrant to head up the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
If confirmed, Alejandro Mayorkas’ new job would include making decisions regarding immigration and border security.
“My father and mother brought me to this country to escape communism. They cherished our democracy, and we’re intensely proud to become United States citizens,” Mayorkas said.
Mayorkas, a Cuban American, is no stranger to the department. He served as its deputy secretary under the Obama administration.
“I think he’s going to be looking towards the protection of immigrant rights more than anything else as far as new policies are concerned,” said Henry Flores, professor emeritus of political science at St. Mary’s University.
Biden’s pick delighted former Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipient Niria Velazquez.
“That just makes me happy because that shows you right there that we’re not here to take away to live off the government, like we’re here to provide, to help,” Velazquez said.
The DACA program protects young people who were brought into the country illegally as children.
Velazquez knows the challenges immigrants face. For a long time, she lived not knowing what could happen next. However, she recently took her citizenship test and passed.
“I was scared not only for me but for my daughter,” Velazquez said.
The Trump administration made many changes to immigration policies, including policies that separated children from their parents at the border to curb immigration.
President Donald Trump also tried to end the DACA program.
Flores said Mayorkas’ experience and background would play a significant role in his policymaking.
“(Mayorkas has) developed a very unique perspective, and he understands the life of immigrants and the stresses and pressures that they’re under,” Flores said.