Kilili praises President’s choice of Alejandro Mayorkas for DHS Deputy Secretary
Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan praised the nomination of Alejandro Mayorkas to be Deputy Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. President Obama announced his selection of Mayorkas on Thursday. Mayorkas has served as the Director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services since the beginning of Obama’s administration in 2009 and presided over the transition from local to federal responsibility for immigration in the Northern Mariana Islands.
“The Northern Mariana Islands could not ask for anyone more knowledgeable about our immigration issues to serve as second in command at Homeland Security than Alejandro Mayorkas,” said Congressman Sablan.
“Throughout his time as head of USCIS he has been responsible for numerous decisions that have made the transition to federal immigration less difficult and more humane.
“I congratulate Director Mayorkas on his nomination; and I thank President Obama for making a wise choice.”
As so many of the people whose lives he has been responsible for as Director of USCIS, Mr. Mayorkas is an immigrant. He was born in Havana, Cuba and came to the United States as a baby.
“I understand deeply the experience of the people who come before us. I speak therefore not just with passion but I think with standing, and I share those sensitivities with my colleagues,” Mayorkas told the Washington Post in a 2010 interview.
Director Mayorkas demonstrated this hands-on leadership, when he personally telephoned Congressman Sablan on Thanksgiving Day, 2011. Mayorkas informed Sablan of the decision to make humanitarian parole available through the end of 2012 to all of the people who would be covered by Sablan’s immigration bill, H.R. 1466. Sablan has been urging USCIS to make that policy call to allow more time for Congress to act on his bill.
This parole opportunity gave people who might otherwise have been forced to leave the Commonwealth the ability to remain in the islands legally and to work. Included were persons born in the Northern Marianas between 1974 and 1978, who were not U.S. citizens, and persons with Northern Marianas permanent resident status. The immediate relatives of these two groups were also eligible for the parole, as were the immediate relatives of U.S. citizens. All of these groups had legal status under Commonwealth immigration law.
One year later, again at Sablan’s urging, Mayorkas provided a two-year extension of the parole eligibility.
As head of USCIS Director, Mayorkas also had a direct role in the decision to provide humanitarian parole to caregivers in the Northern Marianas. In September 2011 Mayorkas sent a team of officials to the islands to provide the public with information about the on-going immigration transition, as well as to observe the practical effects on-the-ground.
Congressman Sablan used the opportunity to highlight the dilemma for families who were dependent on foreign workers to help care for man’amko, medical patients, or children with special needs. The families had no way to continue employing the caregivers under the new federal immigration law.
Sablan hosted a meeting for the USCIS team and some of the families and caregivers at the congressional office on September 22. A month later, Mayorkas announced that the caregivers would be eligible for humanitarian parole.
“Of course, ultimately the President himself and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano are responsible for all these decisions,” Sablan acknowledged, “and the hard-working and sensitive staff up and down the line at USCIS provided information and advice that help shape the policies.
“But Director Mayorkas has really been the focal point throughout this transition.
“Should comprehensive immigration reform legislation make it through Congress and be signed by the President,” Sablan added, “then, as Deputy Secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas will be in a position to continue to bring his deep understanding to issues of implementation in the Northern Mariana Islands.”
Alejandro Mayorkas served first as Assistant United States Attorney then as United States Attorney for the Central District of California in the administrations of Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. He was a partner at O’Melveny & Myers LLP from 2001 to 2009.
According to the White House announcement, Mayorkas has served on the boards of Bet Tzedek Legal Services and United Friends of the Children, as Chair of the American Bar Association Committee on Ethics and Professionalism, and as a Commissioner for the California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice.
He received a B.A. from University of California at Berkley and a J.D. from Loyola Law School.