Alejandro Mayorkas

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Alejandro Mayorkas
Alejandro Mayorkas.jpg
6th United States Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security
In office
December 23, 2013 – October 28, 2016
PresidentBarack Obama
Preceded byJane Holl Lute
Succeeded byElaine Duke
Director of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services
In office
August 12, 2009 – December 23, 2013
PresidentBarack Obama
Preceded byJonathan Scharfen (acting)
Succeeded byLori Scialabba (acting)
United States Attorney for the Central District of California
In office
December 21, 1998[1] – April 20, 2001
PresidentBill Clinton
Preceded byNora Margaret Manella[2]
Succeeded byDebra Wong Yang[3]
Personal details
Born (1959-11-24) November 24, 1959 (age 60)
Havana, Cuba
Political partyDemocratic
EducationUniversity of California, Berkeley (BA)
Loyola Marymount University (JD)

Alejandro N. Mayorkas (born November 24, 1959) is a Cuban-American lawyer who served as the Deputy Secretary of the United States Department of Homeland Security from Dec. 23, 2013 to Oct. 31, 2016.[4] He is a partner in the law firm of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale & Dorr ("WilmerHale"), joining the firm on Nov. 1, 2016. Mayorkas practices in the areas of civil and criminal litigation, internal investigations, cybersecurity, crisis management and strategic counseling.[5] Mayorkas has received numerous awards and recognition from law enforcement, community and media organizations. In 2008, the National Law Journal named Mayorkas one of the "50 Most Influential Minority Lawyers in America."[6] In 2011, Latino Leaders Magazine named him one of the 101 most influential leaders in the nation's Latino community.[7]

Early life and education[edit]

Mayorkas was born in Havana, Cuba in 1959. His parents arrived with him and his sister to the United States in late 1960 as political refugees, following Fidel Castro's communist takeover. He lived in Miami, Florida before his family moved to Los Angeles, California, where he was raised for the remainder of his youth.[8]

His father was of Cuban Jewish background and his mother a Romanian Jew whose family fled to Cuba.[9]

Mayorkas earned his Bachelor of Arts degree with distinction from the University of California at Berkeley in 1981. He received his Juris Doctorate from Loyola Law School in Los Angeles in 1985.[10] He lives with his wife and two of his three daughters in Washington, D. C.


Assistant United States Attorney[edit]

After three years as a litigation associate in the private practice of law, Mayorkas became an Assistant United States Attorney in the Central District of California in 1989. He prosecuted a wide array of federal crimes, developing a specialization in the prosecution of white collar crime. His prosecutions included the successful prosecution of Operation PolarCap, then the largest money laundering case in the nation; the conviction at trial of Heidi Fleiss on charges of federal conspiracy, tax fraud, and money laundering charges; the takedown and successful prosecutions of two of the District's largest telemarketing fraud operations that preyed on the elderly; and, the takedown and successful prosecution of a health care fraud and insurance fraud conspiracy.[10]

Mayorkas served as the coordinator of the Southern California Telemarketing Fraud Task Force, overseeing the coordination of federal, state, and local law enforcement and regulatory agencies to most aggressively combat telemarketing fraud throughout the Central District of California.[10]

From 1996 to 1998, Mayorkas served as Chief of the Office's General Crimes Section, overseeing the training and trial work of all new Assistant United States Attorneys in the Criminal Division. He received numerous awards from federal law enforcement agencies, including from FBI Director Louis Freeh for the successful prosecution of Operation PolarCap.[10]

United States Attorney[edit]

In 1998, Mayorkas was recommended by Senator Dianne Feinstein and appointed by President Clinton as the United States Attorney for the Central District of California, becoming the first United States Attorney to be promoted to that position from within the office and the youngest United States Attorney in the nation. He led an office of 240 Assistant U.S. Attorneys in the prosecution of cases in varied areas of law enforcement, including cases of public corruption, investment fraud, violent crime and narcotics trafficking, civil rights violations, high-tech and computer-related crime, organized crime, environmental crime, immigration crime, and international money laundering. He coordinated federal and state law enforcement agencies, including the creation of new multi-agency task forces, to combat discrete crime problems, including the creation of a task force to address gang-initiated violent crime and drug trafficking, the development of joint federal and local law enforcement agencies response to gun violence, and the coordination of law enforcement and regulatory agencies in combating financial fraud, including a District-wide takedown of mortgage fraud operations.[10]

Mayorkas oversaw the prosecution of criminal cases of national significance, including the prosecution of the Mexican Mafia in death penalty proceedings, the prosecution of Buford O. Furrow, Jr. for the murder of a federal postal worker and the hate-motivated shooting of children in a local community center, the prosecution of Litton Industries for the payment of bribes abroad, and the takedown of the violent 18th Street gang using RICO statutes.[10]

In late 2000 Mayorkas was questioned regarding his involvement in President Clinton's commutation of the sentence of convicted narcotics trafficker Carlos Vignali, Jr., after returning a call from the White House regarding the case. News accounts reported Mayorkas' participation in the call and, during his Senate confirmation hearing for Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services years later, Mayorkas testified to the extent of his role.

As the United States Attorney Mayorkas created the Civil Rights Section to prosecute hate crimes and other acts of intolerance and discrimination more effectively, and served as Vice Chair of the Attorney General's Advisory Subcommittee on Civil Rights and as a member of the Subcommittee on Ethics in Government. He received numerous law enforcement and community awards, including the U.S. Postal Inspection Service's highest award for the successful prosecution of Buford O. Furrow, Jr.[11]

Private law practice[edit]

In September 2001, Mayorkas joined the international law firm of O'Melveny & Myers LLP as a litigation partner, representing Fortune 100 and other companies in high profile and sensitive investigations and trial court cases. He advised boards of directors and top executives, covering a wide array of industries including telecommunications, health care, consumer safety, aerospace, and media. He was a member of the firm's governing Policy Committee, Chair of the firm's Values Awards Committee, Chair of the Warren Christopher Scholarship Committee, and a recipient of the firm's Values Award, an annual award given to two partners worldwide who exemplify the firm's values of leadership, excellence, and citizenship.[12]

Upon the election of President Barack Obama in November 2008, Mayorkas was selected by the President-Elect to lead the transition team responsible for the U.S. Department of Justice's Criminal Division. He served in that role until the inauguration of President Obama in January 2009.[13]

Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services[edit]

In 2009, Mayorkas was appointed by President Obama and unanimously confirmed by the Senate as the Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency that administers the Nation's - and the world's - largest legal immigration system.[14] As the Director, Mayorkas transformed the agency, including realigning its organizational structure to prioritize the agency's fraud detection and national security responsibilities and creating an office of public engagement that made the agency more transparent and open in its consideration, development, and promulgation of policies and practices impacting the more than 7 million people who apply for benefits each year. Mayorkas championed United States citizenship, management efficiencies and fiscal responsibility, and safeguarding the integrity of the immigration system.[15] He led the 18,000-member workforce, with a budget of nearly $3 billion, in implementing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) process in 60 days, a feat The New York Times praised highly.[16] He led the rescue of orphaned children following the tragic January 2010 earthquake in Haiti and led the advancement of a crime victims unit that, for the first time, resulted in the ability of the agency to administer the statutory maximum number of visas to victims of crime.[15]

For his work as the Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Mayorkas received numerous awards from civic and community organizations, including the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund.[17]

During his tenure, Mr. Mayorkas was repeatedly accused of political favoritism when granting "Green Cards to wealthy foreign investors," [18] for example "fast-tracking approvals" for individuals involved in the "Sahara casino and hotel in Las Vegas, over the objections of internal agency analysts who were suspicious about the source of the funds."[19]

Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security[edit]

Mayorkas was promoted to the position of Deputy Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security and later confirmed as the Deputy Secretary in December 2014 following a party line Senate vote. Originally scheduled for a Senate confirmation hearing only several weeks after his nomination, the DHS Inspector General's office leaked that it was investigating Mayorkas based on allegations that he exercised undue influence in the adjudication of an EB-5 petition involving Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe. Mayorkas vigorously denied the allegations in his Senate confirmation hearing, which Republicans boycotted. Mayorkas was ultimately confirmed; months later, the new Inspector General issued a report that did not find undue influence but criticized Mayorkas for failing to protect against an appearance of same.[20]

Mayorkas was involved in almost every aspect of the Department's work, from tackling the Department's presence on GAO's "high risk list" for management challenges to its pivotal role domestically and internationally in combating terrorism. He helped lead the Department in battling cyber crime, partnering with the private sector to enhance the Nation's cyber security, and helped develop innovative ways to promote lawful trade, travel, and tourism. Mayorkas was engaged with government at all levels, with the law enforcement and intelligence community here and abroad, and with the private sector in promoting the public-private partnership so vital to the nation’s security and prosperity.[21]

In 2015 Mayorkas traveled to Havana, Cuba, as the Obama Administration’s highest ranking Cuban-American, to negotiate the first-ever Homeland Security agreement between the two countries. The agreement was signed in May 2016. Mayorkas' international successes also included his work with the State of Israel on negotiating information-sharing and overarching cybersecurity agreements between the two countries.

For his distinguished service as the Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Mayorkas received numerous awards, including the Distinguished Service Medal, the Department's highest civilian honor; the Distinguished Public Service Award, the United States Coast Guard's highest civilian honor; and, a special commendation from the National Security Agency for his work in furtherance of the nation's security and his advancement of the cybersecurity mission.

Upon announcing that he would leave the position of Deputy Secretary effective October 31, 2016, prominent leaders and organizations from across the country commended Mayorkas for his service, including Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs ranking member Sen. Tom Carper, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Lisa O. Monaco, Assistant to the President and Director of the Domestic Policy Council Cecelia Munoz, Fraternal Order of Police President Chuck Canterbury, Major Cities Chiefs Association, Major Country Sheriff's Association, US Travel Association, and the American Association of Airport Executives. At the annual conference of the International Association of Chiefs of Police on Oct. 14, 2016, the Major Cities Chiefs Association for the first time ever passed a Resolution of Commendation, honoring Mayorkas for his "leadership and innovation during these difficult times, his unwavering commitment to the American people we have pledged our lives to protect."

Post-Obama administration[edit]

In March 2017, Mayorkas was identified as one of the 500 leading lawyers in America.[22] In June 2017, Mayorkas was selected to serve as the Chairman of the United States Chamber of Commerce's Cyber Leadership Council, beginning July 2017.[23]


  1. ^ "Former United States Attorneys". November 4, 2015.
  2. ^ "PN19 - Nomination of Alejandro N. Mayorkas for Department of Justice, 106th Congress (1999-2000)". August 2, 1999.
  3. ^ "PN1594 - Nomination of Debra W. Yang for Department of Justice, 107th Congress (2001-2002)". April 22, 2002.
  4. ^ "Alejandro Mayorkas". 27 June 2016. Retrieved 26 April 2018.
  5. ^ "Alejandro N. Mayorkas - WilmerHale". Retrieved 26 April 2018.
  6. ^ "The 50 Most Influential Minority Lawyers in America" (PDF). Retrieved 2018-04-26.
  7. ^ "Latino Leaders Magazine - July/Aug 2014". Retrieved 26 April 2018.
  8. ^ Marshall, Serena. "55 Years Later, US Official Prepares for Emotional Return to Cuba". ABC News.
  9. ^ Hesson, Ted (July 25, 2013). "Meet the Cuban Immigrant Who Could Run Homeland Security". ABC News. Retrieved May 18, 2014.
  10. ^ a b c d e f Rosenzweig, David. "Feinstein Recommends Mayorkas for U.S. Attorney in L.A." Los Angeles Times.
  11. ^ "Mayorkas Joins Litigation Team at O'Melveny". Los Angeles Daily Journal. 26 July 2001.
  12. ^ O'Melveny Missing or empty |title= (help)
  13. ^ "Two Californians on legal review team". The Recorder. Missing or empty |url= (help)
  14. ^ "News Release". U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. August 12, 2009. Missing or empty |url= (help)
  15. ^ a b Watanabe, Teresa. "Head of U.S. legal immigration system wins high marks from advocates for immigrants". Los Angeles Times.
  16. ^ Preston, Julia. "Quick Start to Program Offering Immigrants a Reprieve". New York Times.
  17. ^ "Letter from Joshua Hoyt, Executive Director". Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights. April 15, 2011.
  18. ^ Template:Last1=Ross
  19. ^ Template:Last1=Loten
  20. ^ Caldwell, Alicia. "APNewsBreak: Homeland Security official probed". Associated Press.
  21. ^ "Ali Mayorkas". The Business of Government Magazine: 27. Spring 2011.
  22. ^ "The 2017 Lawdragon 500 Leading Lawyers - Lawdragon". Retrieved 26 April 2018.
  23. ^ "US Chamber Announces Alejandro Mayorkas as Chair of Cyber Leadership Council". Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr. June 15, 2017. Retrieved June 15, 2017. The US Chamber of Commerce today announced that Alejandro Mayorkas has been selected to serve as Chairman of its Cyber Leadership Council. Mayorkas' term will begin in July. “We are pleased to welcome Ali as our Cyber Leadership Council Chair,” said Ann Beauchesne, senior vice president for National Security and Emergency Preparedness at the US Chamber.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Jonathan Scharfen
Director of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services
Succeeded by
Lori Scialabba
Preceded by
Rafael Borras
United States Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security
Succeeded by
Russell Deyo