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Senate Makes Alejandro Mayorkas First Latino Head Of Homeland Security

Alejandro Mayorkas, seen here at his introduction by then-President-elect Biden, has been confirmed to lead the Department of Homeland Security.
Mark Makela
Getty Images
Alejandro Mayorkas, seen here at his introduction by then-President-elect Biden, has been confirmed to lead the Department of Homeland Security.

The Senate has voted to confirm Alejandro Mayorkas as secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. He becomes the first Latino and first immigrant to lead DHS.

The vote was narrower than for some of President Biden's other Cabinet nominees. Mayorkas was confirmed by a 56-43 vote on Tuesday.

The approval came on the same day Biden is expected to sign a series of executive actions on immigration, including one to begin to reunite migrant children separated from their parents after crossing the United States border.

Biden has also sent Congress a sweeping immigration proposal.

Mayorkas, who previously worked for the department during the Obama administration, faces the task of bringing structure to the agency, which has not had a confirmed secretary since 2019.

In addition to dealing with immigration, the department also faces rising worries of domestic terror. Last week DHS issued a bulletin warning of a continued threat from domestic violent extremists.

During his confirmation hearing last month, several Republicans called on Mayorkas to explain his actions as head of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, after an inspector general's report found he intervened to help some prominent Democrats with a visa program.

In a tweet shortly after his nomination, Mayorkas wrote that it was an honor to be considered for the position.

"It is no small task to lead the Department of Homeland Security, but I will work to restore faith in our institutions, and protect our security here at home," he wrote.

He is the second Biden Cabinet nominees to be confirmed Tuesday. Earlier, senators voted in favor of Pete Buttigieg to head the Department of Transportation.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Alana Wise joined WAMU in September 2018 as the 2018-2020 Audion Reporting Fellow for Guns & America. Selected as one of 10 recipients nationwide of the Audion Reporting Fellowship, Alana works in the WAMU newsroom as part of a national reporting project and is spending two years focusing on the impact of guns in the Washington region.
Alana Wise
Alana Wise is a politics reporter on the Washington desk at NPR.