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Alejandro Mayorkas

Department Of Homeland Security Secretary

Alejandro Mayorkas is DHS Secretary. He previously worked as DHS deputy secretary and director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services under the Obama administration. Mayorkas is the son of Jewish Cuban immigrants who fled the Castro revolution; he has said his lived experience with U.S. immigration is a guiding influence for his new role. Immigrant rights advocates have praised Mayorkas’ appointment to lead DHS. Since his confirmation Mayorkas has advocated for some humane immigration policies. However, Equity Forward has determined that Mayorkas’ endorsement of Title 42 and handling of mostly Haitian asylum seekers at the U.S. border warrant a yellow categorization as of 10/14/21.

Mayorkas Was Confirmed As Department Of Homeland Security Secretary On February 2, 2021

Mayorkas Was Confirmed By The Senate On February 2, 2021. “Alejandro Mayorkas was confirmed on Tuesday to serve as secretary of Homeland Security, putting him in charge of carrying out the Biden administration’s immigration agenda and tackling national security concerns. The Senate backed Mayorkas in a 56-43 vote, the tightest confirmation vote for a Biden nominee so far.” [Politico, 2/2/21]

Mayorkas’ Leadership Of DHS Is Highly Anticipated. “At DHS, he would assume command of a sprawling agency, with more than 250,000 employees, that has experienced repeated leadership changes. For more than a year, it has been led by an acting secretary who hasn’t been confirmed by the Senate. “They need people particularly like him who have that institutional knowledge of DHS,” said Gil Kerlikowske, who served as commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection under Obama. “It’s a huge, complex organization and it’s probably the one that, of all the Cabinet offices, has been buffeted the most by pure politics and incompetent leadership.”’ [KTLA, 11/23/20]

Mayorkas’ Professional And Lived Experiences With U.S. Immigration Policy Qualified Him For The Role As DHS Secretary

Mayorkas Acted To Ensure USCIS Upheld Immigration Rights For Same-Sex Couples

In Response To DOMA Being Deemed Unconstitutional, Mayorkas Pledged To Reconsider Visa Applications Denied Because Of Bias. “‘This discriminatory law denied thousands of legally married same-sex couples many important federal benefits, including immigration benefits,’ Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano said in a statement Wednesday. ‘Working with our federal partners, including the Department of Justice, we will implement today's decision so that all married couples will be treated equally and fairly in the administration of our immigration laws.’ At the annual American Immigration Lawyer’s Conference in San Francisco yesterday, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Alejandro Mayorkas indicated that not only would USCIS comply with Secretary Napolitano's directive to immediately implement the Supreme Court's Decision, but that his office has maintained a list of all I-130 applications (U.S. Citizen/LPR sponsorship of a spouse for permanent residency) denied under DOMA, which will be put back into process and approved.” [Fox Rothschild, 7/18/13]

Immigrant Rights Advocates Praised Mayorkas’ Appointment To Lead DHS

The Announcement Of Mayorkas Was Applauded By Former Colleagues And Immigration Advocates. “Former Obama administration official Alejandro Mayorkas was tapped Monday to lead the Department of Homeland Security by President-elect Joe Biden, signaling an intent to bring experienced leadership to the third-largest federal department after years of instability. The announcement was immediately met with praise from immigrant advocates and Democratic lawmakers, as well as former and current officials who have expressed concern over the politicization of the department from some of its top leaders.” [CNN, 11/24/20]

Mayorkas’ Nomination Signals A Willingess Of The Biden Administration’s Intent To Reverse And Repair The Trump Administration’s Immigration Policy. “President-elect Joe Biden’s choice of Alejandro Mayorkas to lead the Department of Homeland Security thrilled immigrant advocates on Monday and won praise from former DHS leaders who described him as a savvy department veteran who would try to stabilize the organization after years of front-office turmoil under President Trump. Biden has pledged to reverse many — if not most — of Trump’s executive actions on immigration, and Mayorkas’s nomination signaled that the president-elect is looking for someone experienced in both immigration policy and politics, anticipating the issue will remain a source of intense partisanship.” [Washington Post, 11/23/20]

  • Refugee Aid Organization HIAS, Of Which Mayorkas Previously Sat On The Board, Said He Is “Uniquely Suited” To Lead DHS Because He “Knows That America Is At Its Greatest When We Build Bridges, Not Walls.” “Mark Hetfield, president and CEO of HIAS, an organization that aids refugees, said Mayorkas sits on the board and is ‘uniquely suited’ to lead the agency ‘as the child of a Holocaust survivor, as a Latino and as a refugee and immigrant himself. Ali is uniquely suited to rebuild public trust in the Department of Homeland Security, as he knows that America is at its greatest when we build bridges, not walls,’ Hetfield said.” [Washington Post, 11/23/20]
  • The National Immigration Law Center Is “Thrilled” By His Nomination. “We are thrilled with President-elect Biden’s historic selection of Alejandro Mayorkas to lead the Department of Homeland Security. This represents an exemplary choice that will not only serve our next president and the American people well, but also sends a strong signal to immigrant communities that the Biden administration fully intends to follow through on their commitment to undo the harms of the Trump administration.” [National Immigration Law Center, 11/23/20]
  • The Southern Poverty Law Center Congratulated Mayorkas’ Nomination. “We congratulate Alejandro Mayorkas on his historic nomination to become DHS Secretary. Mayorkas, whose own family found refuge in the United States, will be the first immigrant and Latino to lead DHS. In a welcome change to the agency’s current leadership, Mayorkas is a knowledgeable and dedicated public servant with a history of respecting due process and the human rights of immigrants and asylum seekers.” [Southern Poverty Law Center, 11/23/20

While Serving In the Obama-Biden Administration, Mayorkas Was Instrumental In Creating The DACA Program And Implementing Other Positive Changes

Mayorkas Was An Essential Part Of The Obama Administration’s Implementation Of DACA. “Mayorkas also presided over the Obama administration’s rollout of the DACA program, which granted work permits to undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children. The rollout posed a challenge for DHS, which had to vet applicants but also needed to persuade undocumented immigrants that it was safe to come forward. More than 800,000 applied at the program’s peak.” [Washington Post, 11/23/20]

Mayorkas Was Behind The Obama Administration’s Historic Negotiations With Cuba. “Mayorkas has achieved some historic firsts. In 1998, he was the youngest U.S. attorney. He was the highest-ranking Cuban American under Obama. And he helped negotiate the first homeland security memorandum of understanding between the U.S. and Cuba, where he was born.” [KTLA, 11/23/20]

Mayorkas’ Previous Roles Helped To Establish A Holistic Understanding Of The Department Of Homeland Security. “As a former federal prosecutor and a partner at the prominent law firm WilmerHale, Mayorkas is well versed in the criminal cases involving transnational crime that are generated by the agencies under DHS purview. ‘His knowledge of the department and ability to hit the ground running will enable him to start the repair work that is sorely needed,’ said Alan Bersin, a former assistant secretary in the Office of Policy at DHS.” [KTLA, 11/23/20]

Mayorkas Has Said His Lived Experiences With U.S. Immigration Policy Will Inform His Decision-Making

In Response To Biden’s Announcement, Mayorkas Tweeted About His Own Family’s Immigration And His Commitment To Other Immigrant Families.

[Alejandro Mayorkas, Twitter, 11/23/20]


Mayorkas Is The Son Of Jewish Cuban Immigrants To The United States. “Mayorkas, 60, who goes by “Ali,” came to the United States as a baby and was raised mostly in Los Angeles. His mother was a Romanian Jew who escaped the Holocaust and arrived in Cuba in the 1940s, where she met his father, who was of Sephardic heritage.” [Washington Post, 11/23/20]

Mayorkas' Nomination Is A Historic First. “If confirmed, Mr. Mayorkas, who served as deputy homeland security secretary from 2013 to 2016, would be the first Latino to run the department charged with putting in place and managing the nation’s immigration policies. A Cuban-born immigrant whose family fled the Castro revolution, he is a former U.S. attorney in California and began President Barack Obama’s first term as director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.” [New York Times, 11/23/20]

Mayorkas Has Endorsed Use Of Title 42 To Deny Entry To People Seeking Refuge In the United States—In Violation Of Human Rights Law And To The Alarm Of Immigrant Justice Advocates And Health Experts

Under Mayorkas’s Leadership, DHS Continues To Invoke Title 42 To Deny Entry To The Majority Of People At The Southwest U.S. Border. “As part the United States’ COVID-19 mitigation efforts, DHS will continue to process individuals in accordance with the CDC’s updated Title 42 Order. Title 42 is not an immigration authority, but a public health authority, and its continued use is dictated by CDC and governed by the CDC's analysis of public health factors. “Under Title 42, DHS continues to expel the majority of single adults, and, to the extent possible, families encountered at the Southwest Border.” [Department of Homeland Security, 8/2/21]

Im/migrants Expelled Under Title 42 Are Often Denied Screening For Asylum… “Out of hundreds of thousands of migrants who have been processed under a pandemic-era policy at the southern border, just over 3,200 asylum-seekers have been screened for U.S. humanitarian protection, according to unpublished government data obtained by CBS News. Since March 2020, U.S. authorities along the border with Mexico have used a public health authority known as Title 42 to rapidly expel migrants more than 1,163,000 times without allowing them to see an immigration judge or an asylum officer, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) figures show. As of the end of September, only 3,217 migrants processed under the public health law have been referred for interviews with U.S. asylum officers, who are charged with upholding humanitarian laws designed to prevent the government from returning people to places where they could be harmed.” [CBS News, 10/14/21]

…When Im/migrants Are Screened Through Title 42 Proceedings, The Screening Process Is Far More Difficult Than Usual. “These migrants received screenings that are more difficult to pass than traditional asylum interviews. They have to prove they are "more likely than not" to be tortured if expelled, which would qualify them for refuge under the United Nations Convention Against Torture, of which the U.S. is a signatory. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) did not address questions about how it determines who is allowed to speak to an asylum officer. According to internal policy, migrants in Title 42 proceedings have to make a "spontaneous and reasonably believable claim" that they fear being tortured in order to be screened. Just 272 — or 8% — of the 3,217 asylum-seekers passed their interviews, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) data. Convention Against Torture interviews are the only screenings available to those processed under Title 42, which bars migrants from seeking asylum.” [CBS News, 10/14/21]


Despite Being A Public Health Order, Title 42 Is Being Used To Block Those Seeking Refuge In The United States

Title 42, In Addition To Other Expulsion Policies, Is Being Used To Expedite Removal Of Families. “DHS last week also resumed expedited removal flights for certain families who recently arrived at the southern border, cannot be expelled under Title 42, and do not have a legal basis to stay in the United States.” [Department of Homeland Security, 8/2/21]

Families Have Been Expelled Via Flight To Remote Locations On The Mexican-Guatemalan Border. “Hundreds of Central American migrants — many families with young children — expelled by the United States on flights deep into southern Mexico have been dropped this week at this remote jungle outpost on the Guatemalan border. They walk into Guatemala with children in their arms and their few possessions in plastic bags, pause to put the laces back into their shoes, disoriented by their sudden arrival in a third country in 24 hours. In part, that is the point. The new U.S. measure aims to dissuade them from trying to reach the U.S. border again.” [Independent, 8/13/21]

Mayorkas Explained This Strategy Is Being Used To Make It Harder For Migrants To Return To The Southwest Border; This Strategy Imposes A Severe Barrier To Refugees Seeking Asylum. “U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas explained Thursday that the new measure aims to make it harder for migrants expelled under pandemic-related restrictions that prohibit them from seeking asylum to return to the U.S. border. Migrants interviewed this week said they were not asked by U.S. or Mexican authorities if they needed protection. The U.S. has flown Mexican migrants deep into Mexico before to deter them from trying to enter the U.S. again, but this is the first time it is flying Central Americans to southern Mexican cities like Villahermosa and Tapachula.” [Independent, 8/13/21]

Migrants Expelled Via Flight Are Often Kept In The Dark About Their Final Destination. “Maritza Tepata arrived in El Ceibo Wednesday with her two children ages 3 and 8, after starting the day in Brownsville. On Friday, she was working in a diner, washing dishes, scrubbing floors and waiting on customers along with a Nicaraguan migrant. In exchange, she received food for her family, but otherwise was not paid. She had fled El Salvador because a gang threatened her for not making extortion payments. Tepata, 26, had been trying to reach Los Angeles. In addition to her children, she had been traveling with her mother, but they were separated by U.S. authorities after crossing the border into Texas. On her flight Wednesday, Tepata said, “I asked how many hours it was from the U.S. to El Salvador, that’s when they told me it wasn’t going to El Salvador, but to Mexico.” [Independent, 8/13/21]


Title 42 Has Been Sharply Criticized By Human Rights And Immigrant Justice Groups, As Well As By Health Experts

Title 42 Violates Human Rights Including The Right To Seek Asylum. "This is very disturbing and alarming. Migrants are being prevented from exercising a basic human right, which is to apply for asylum," Michael Knowles, president of a union that represents hundreds of U.S. government asylum and refugee officers, told CBS News. "Because of the way this policy is being carried out, our officers are being prevented from carrying out their mission, which is to ensure that people asking for asylum have a fair hearing and are treated humanely." Like the Trump administration, the Biden administration has argued it can suspend these legal obligations by invoking Title 42 during a public health emergency. Citing concerns about the spread of the Delta variant of the coronavirus, the Biden administration has said the border expulsions will continue indefinitely.” [CBS News, 10/14/21]

Michael Knowles, President Of Asylum Workers Union, Spoke Out Against Title 42. "These deterrence (and) expulsion measures deny due process to asylum seekers and place them in harm's way. That is a human rights violation," Michael Knowles, president of AFGE Local 1924, the union that represents the asylum officers at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) told Reuters. "Our members are outraged by the mistreatment of migrants and the refusal of our border authorities to allow them to have their asylum claims heard." [Reuters, 9/22/21]

Human Rights Advocates Have Vocally Criticized Title 42. “While human rights advocates and public health experts have called for the policy to be revoked, the Biden administration has instead defended it in federal court. According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection data, 938,045 migrants were expelled from the U.S. under Title 42 between October 2020 and August 2021, including more than 7,000 Haitians who’d attempted to cross the border in Del Rio, Texas, in late September.” [Yahoo!News, 10/12/21]

  • Despite Criticism, Mayorkas Has Doubled Down On DHS’s Enforcement Of Title 42. “Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas doubled down this week on the Biden administration’s use of a controversial Trump-era policy known as Title 42, dismissing recent criticism from a former senior State Department official who called the policy “illegal” and “inhumane.” [Yahoo!News, 10/12/21]

Health Experts Have Expressed Concerns That Title 42 Contributes To The Spread Of COVID-19. “The Biden Administration is defending its controversial use of the order, called Title 42, arguing in court that summary expulsions are “necessary,” due to “the ongoing risks of transmission and spread of COVID-19.”But a growing cacophony of top public health experts are calling foul. There’s no evidence that a policy allowing for mass expulsions prevents the spread of COVID-19, they argue. And it may, in fact, have the opposite effect: by rounding up and detaining hundreds of thousands of migrants in large groups, Customs and Border Protection (CBP), which does not offer COVID-19 testing for migrants, may actually be stoking the transmission of the disease. Migrants often spend days and weeks in crowded facilities before they’re transported and expelled. The Biden Administration is defending its controversial use of the order, called Title 42, arguing in court that summary expulsions are “necessary,” due to “the ongoing risks of transmission and spread of COVID-19.”But a growing cacophony of top public health experts are calling foul. There’s no evidence that a policy allowing for mass expulsions prevents the spread of COVID-19, they argue. And it may, in fact, have the opposite effect: by rounding up and detaining hundreds of thousands of migrants in large groups, Customs and Border Protection (CBP), which does not offer COVID-19 testing for migrants, may actually be stoking the transmission of the disease. Migrants often spend days and weeks in crowded facilities before they’re transported and expelled.” [Time, 10/12/21]


Human Rights Groups Including The ACLU And RAICES Have Sued DHS To Stop Title 42 And Won An Injunction—But The Federal Government Successfully Appealed In September 2021

Human Rights Groups Have Sued Mayorkas In Efforts To Stop Title 42… “Predictably, the United States now faces continuing litigation challenges to the implementation of Title 42. At present, in Huisha-Huisha v. Mayorkas, the ACLU, the Texas Civil Rights Project, RAICES, Center for Gender and Refugee Studies, Oxfam, ACLU of Texas and the ACLU of the District of Columbia have sued the United States, seeking an immediate halt to the implementation of Title 42 as applied to the identified class (families) based on what they call “an unprecedented and unlawful invocation of the Public Health Service Act.” [Politico, 10/4/21]

…But The Federal Government Successfully Appealed A District Court’s Injunction Against Title 42. “On September 16, 2021, the D.C. District Court (Judge Emmet Sullivan) granted the request for a preliminary injunction to go into effect October 1, 2021, which the government has appealed. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit just granted the government’s request to stay the effectiveness of the injunction pending further appeal, but as the litigation proceeds, this Administration may well be required to exempt family units from the application of Title 42 expulsions.” [Politico, 10/4/21]


A Political Appointee Of The State Department Issued A Scathing Memo Which Urged The Biden Administration To Revoke Title 42

Harold Koh, A Political Appointee Of The State Department, Criticized The Biden Administration’s Use Of Title 42, Calling It Inhumane.  “A senior State Department official is leaving his role in the Biden administration. And on his way out, he has sent a scathing internal memo criticizing the president’s use of a Trump-era policy to expel migrants from the southern border. In a detailed legal memo dated October 2 and obtained by POLITICO, Harold Koh, a senior adviser and the sole political appointee on the State Department’s legal team, called the use of the public health authority known as Title 42 “illegal,” “inhumane” and “not worthy of this Administration that I so strongly support.” [Politico, 10/4/21]

Koh Also Raised Concerns That Implementing Title 42 Violates International Law, Particularly The Legal Obligation To Not Expel Individuals Fearing Persecution Or Death.  “DHS was made responsible for the implementation of the order at the border. But the breadth and subsequent implementation of Title 42 authority now raises significant concerns about whether the United States is living up to its binding obligations under international law…I write first, because I believe this Administration’s current implementation of the Title 42 authority continues to violate our legal obligation not to expel or return (“refouler”) individuals who fear persecution, death, or torture, especially migrants fleeing from Haiti. Second, my concerns have only been heightened by recent tragic events in Haiti, which had led this Administration wisely to extend temporary protected status (TPS) to Haitians already in the United States. Third, lawful, more humane alternatives plainly exist, and there are approaching opportunities in the near future to substitute those alternatives in place of the current, badly flawed policy. ” [Politico, 10/2/21]

Koh Specifically Stated Title 42 Violates Policy Established By The Refugee Convention. “In my judgment, Title 42 is currently being implemented in a manner that violates the Refugee Convention’s Article 33 prohibition against direct expulsion or return to persecution and 8 U.S.C. 1231(b)(3)(A) (“the Attorney General may not remove an alien to a country if the Attorney General decides that the alien’s life or freedom would be threatened in that country because of the alien’s race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion.”).” [Politico, 10/2/21]

Koh Raised Concerns About The Nearly 700,000 People Who Have Been Expelled Under Title 42 Since February 2021. “Title 42 expulsions are currently being executed to return Mexican, Guatemalan, Honduran, and Salvadoran families and single adults to their countries of origin, and more recently, Haitians to Haiti. The numbers are startling: CBP statistics indicated that nearly 700,000 people have been expelled under Title 42 since February of this year, and that this past August alone, 91,147 were forcibly removed.” [Politico, 10/2/21]

Koh Strongly Urged The Biden Administration To Revoke Title 42… “In closing, I have been fortunate to serve in four presidential administrations. I have been proud to serve in this one for its first eight months. I was especially proud last week when President Biden told the United Nations that “a belief in the universal rights of all people ...[is] stamped into our DNA as a nation” and when he criticized the Border Patrol Agents’ mistreating Haitian migrants, saying, “It’s wrong. It sends the wrong message around the world and sends the wrong message at home. It’s simply not who we are.” The same could be said of current illegal and inhumane policy of Title 42 expulsions. It simply is not worthy of this Administration that I so strongly support.” [Politico, 10/2/21]

… And Highlighted The Government’s Treatment Of Afghan Refugees As Proof That Our Immigration Policy Can Be Humanely Implemented, Which Is In “Stark Contrast” To Title 42. “Yet our actions and approaches regarding Afghan refugees stand in stark contrast to the continuing use of Title 42 to rebuff the pleas of thousands of Haitians and myriad others arriving at the Southern Border who are fleeing violence, persecution, or torture.” [Politico, 10/2/21]

Mayorkas Has Been Heavily Criticized For His Handling Of The Haitian Refugee Crisis

During A Senate Committee Hearing, Mayorkas Seemed To Imply Part Of DHS’s Response To The Haitian Refugee Crisis Would Be To Increase Repatriation Flights. “Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told Congress on Tuesday that the Biden administration is aiming to relocate the thousands of migrants camped along the U.S. border in Del Rio, Texas by the month’s end. “Our goal is to do so within the next 10 days or nine days,” Mayorkas said in response to questioning from Sen. James Lankford (R-Ok.). Mayorkas told members of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs committee that officials “expect to see dramatic results within the next 48 to 96” hours, at which point they’ll have a better grasp of the remaining task. Mayorkas said that the administration is continuing to ramp up “the frequency and number” of repatriation flights for the migrants, the bulk of whom hail from Haiti. He said that DHS is also transporting them to other processing centers in order to expedite the process and get them out of the makeshift campsite along the U.S.-Mexico border that has ballooned in recent days to include thousands of would-be asylum seekers.” [Politico, 9/21/21]

Just A Few Days After The Senate Hearing, Mayorkas Announced That The Haitian Im/migrants Encamped Under A Bridge At The Southwest Border Had Been Expelled Under Title 42 Or Placed In Immigration Proceedings. “The thousands of mostly Haitian migrants who had been encamped underneath a bridge in Del Rio, Texas, have been removed and either deported to Haiti or placed in immigration proceedings, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas said Friday. “Today, we have no migrants remaining in the camp under the International Bridge,” he said. “Migrants continue to be expelled and under the CDC’s Title 42 authority. Title 42 is a public health authority and not an immigration policy, and it is important to note that Title 42 is applicable, and has been applicable, to all irregular migration.” [NBC News, 9/24/21]

Mayorkas Defended The Use Of Horses By Immigration Officers Despite Previously Verbalizing Outrage At The Photos Of Immigration Officers On Horseback Violating Haitian Refugees. “Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas sought Sunday to fend off criticism of the Biden administration's handling of the crisis at the border, specifically the cases of Haitian migrants who had been encamped under a bridge in Del Rio, Texas. "I'm intensely and immensely proud of the men and women of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection. In fact, in Del Rio, Texas, I saw them act heroically," Mayorkas said on NBC's "Meet the Press." Criticism of the administration erupted last week after images began circulating showing an agent on horseback grabbing a migrant as the man tried to cross into the U.S. from Ciudad Acuña, Mexico, as well as other video showing agents on horseback chasing the migrants and waving what appeared to be a leather rein or a lariat, lashing it toward them. Mayorkas said the viral images of immigration officers on horseback chasing and intimidating mostly Haitians "does not reflect who CBP is, who we are as a department, nor who we are as a country. "The White House said last week that Border Patrol officers in Del Rio will no longer use the horses and that an investigation will continue. Mayorkas defended the horseback training, saying horse patrol "serves an incredibly important function," but he would not comment directly about the viral images.” [NBC News, 9/26/21]

Mayorkas Was Criticized By Immigrant Rights Advocates In Summer 2021 For His Comments About Haitian And Cuban Refugees Fleeing Political Crises. “The Biden administration is facing blowback from immigrant rights advocates after Homeland Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said Tuesday that Haitians and Cubans fleeing violent political crises in their countries by boat would not be allowed to enter the U.S., even if they established a credible claim for asylum. Instead, Mayorkas said, those with credible claims will be relocated to third countries for resettlement. “The time is never right to attempt migration by sea,” Mayorkas said at a news conference. “Allow me to be clear: If you take to the sea, you will not come to the United States.” [NBC News, 7/14/21]

Amnesty International And The Southern Poverty Law Center Called Out Mayorkas’ Comments As Shameful And Disappointing. “This shameful message from the U.S. government to offshore its responsibilities for refugee protection is a horrible turning away from the administration’s promised commitment to human rights and racial justice,” said Denise Bell, researcher for refugee and migrant rights at Amnesty International USA. Mayorkas himself immigrated to the U.S. as a child when his family fled Cuba, an experience he pulled from during his testimony before Congress as he sought confirmation as secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. “It is disappointing to see Secretary Mayorkas, himself the son of Cuban refugees, attempting to foreclose that right for Cuban and Haitian nationals when they most need it,” said Efrèn Olivares, deputy legal director for immigrant justice at the Southern Poverty Law Center.” [NBC News, 7/14/21]

A Report From Haitian Advocacy Groups Blasted The Fact That More Haitians Had Been Deported During The Biden Administration Than The Trump Administration. “The Biden administration has so far deported more Haitians in a few weeks than the Trump administration did in a whole year, with the use of a highly controversial Trump-era public health order denying asylum seekers basic legal rights, according to a new report… “More Haitians have been removed to Haiti in the weeks since President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris took office than during all of fiscal year 2020,” according to the Invisible Wall report, published by the Haitian Bridge Alliance, the Quixote Center, and the UndocuBlack Network.” [The Guardian, 3/25/21]

Civil Rights Groups Have Urged The Biden Administration To Employ A Humanitarian Approach To Haitian Refugees. “Your commitment to racial equity must extend to the treatment of immigrants. As such, we urge you to stop the deportations and immediately grant humanitarian parole to the thousands of Black asylum seekers and process their asylum claims without further delay. We also urge you to launch an investigation into the acts of Border Patrol agents in Del Rio and cease and desist the treatment we witnessed, instead employing a humanitarian approach to the crisis.” [Black Alliance For Just Immigration, 9/22/21]


Mayorkas’ Denial Of Haitian Asylum Seekers Flies In The Face Of His Own Admission That Haitians Are Fleeing Violence

Mayorkas Expanded Temporary Protected Status (TPS) For Haitians Inside Of The U.S. Shortly After The Assassination Of Haiti’s President. “Mayorkas expanded Haiti’s designation on August 3, in response to Moïse’s assassination, to include Haitians who were residing in the U.S. as of July 29. The new designation keeps TPS for Haitians, which was first introduced in 2010, in place until February 3, 2023.” [Miami Herald, 8/17/21]

  • Mayorkas Cited “Serious Security Concerns, Social Unrest, An Increase In Human Rights Abuses, Crippling Poverty, And Lack Of Basic Resources” In Expanding TPS For Haitians. “‘Haiti is currently experiencing serious security concerns, social unrest, an increase in human rights abuses, crippling poverty, and lack of basic resources, which are exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic,’ said Secretary Mayorkas. ‘After careful consideration, we determined that we must do what we can to support Haitian nationals in the United States until conditions in Haiti improve so they may safely return home.’ After consultation with interagency partners, Secretary Mayorkas decided to designate Haiti for TPS due to extraordinary and temporary conditions in Haiti that prevent nationals from returning safely, specifically, a political crisis and human rights abuses; serious security concerns; and the COVID-19 pandemic’s exacerbation of a dire economic situation and lack of access to food, water, and healthcare. The persistent effects of the 2010 earthquake have also exacerbated the severity of the extraordinary and temporary conditions in Haiti currently.” [Department of Homeland Security, 5/22/21]

However, Expanded TPS With A Cutoff Date Has Been Deemed Insufficient By Haitian Advocates Seeking Fair Treatment By The U.S. Immigration System. Haitian nationals who were in the U.S. before July 29 are eligible to apply for temporary protected status (TPS), a humanitarian program meant to avoid repatriating foreign nationals to dangerous conditions in their home country. But tens of thousands of Haitians who have left Haiti over the past decade but not yet reached the U.S. are subject to Title 42 — rather than asylum proceedings or protection under TPS — if they set foot on American soil without prior authorization. Haitian advocates have decried the administration's non-application of long-standing asylum laws, and say that the TPS designation with a cutoff date shows a lack of humanitarian concern. "I try not to have high expectations," said Taisha Saintil, legislative and communications director for the Haitian Bridge Alliance, which is part of the Welcome With Dignity campaign. "Rescinding a Trump-era policy is the least I would expect."[The Hill, 10/14/21]

Mayorkas Has Moved To End Worksite ICE Raids And Protect Employees From Employer Retaliation

In October 2021, Mayorkas Issued A Memo Which Announced The End Of Worksite Raids By ICE. “The deployment of mass worksite operations, sometimes resulting in the simultaneous arrest of hundreds of workers, was not focused on the most pernicious aspect of our country's unauthorized employment challenge: exploitative employers. These highly visible operations misallocated enforcement resources while chilling, and even serving as a tool of retaliation for, worker cooperation in workplace standards investigations. Moreover, such operations are inconsistent with the Department's September 30, 2021 Guidelines for the Enforcement of Civil Immigration Law and the individualized assessment they require. Given these concerns, please ensure we no longer conduct mass worksite operations and instead refocus our workplace enforcement efforts to better accomplish the goals outlined above.” [Department of Homeland Security, 10/12/21]

In The Memo, Mayorkas Acknowledged How Raids Were Used As A Predatory Tool To Harass And Intimidate Workers. “Under the previous administration, these resource-intensive operations resulted in the simultaneous arrest of hundreds of workers," DHS said about the change. While the raids attracted attention and made headlines, the agency says they "were used as a tool by exploitative employers to suppress and retaliate against workers' assertion of labor laws. The announcement is part of a shift in strategy under the Biden administration that puts a new emphasis on going after businesses and employers that violate labor laws. In addition to halting mass raids, it supports the idea of exercising prosecutorial discretion to spare workers from charges if they witness or are the victims of abuse or exploitation in the workplace." [NPR, 10/12/21]

Mayorkas Also Stated DHS Will Consider Protections For Undocumented Employees Who Report Abusive Employers. “DHS said in the memo that it is also considering options to offer protection from deportation for undocumented immigrants who witness or are victims of "abusive or exploitable labor practices." [Axios, 10/12/21]


Immigrant Rights Advocates Welcomed Mayorkas’ Policy Ending Workplace Raids

The We Are Home Campaign Acknowledged The End Of Worksite Raids As An Important Step Towards Protecting Workers’ Rights. “The Biden Administration’s new worksite enforcement strategy is an important step in protecting the rights and safety of all workers. The memo recognizes how ICE enforcement can undermine workers rights. It rightfully ends the destructive practice of mass worksite raids that have brought so much harm to communities. It also acknowledges the leadership of immigrant workers and the importance of protecting those who help protect labor standards. Immigrant workers in industries across the country have led with courage in standing up for their rights and against exploitation by unscrupulous employers. These efforts are crucial and must be defended. To succeed in this strategy and combat ongoing fear among immigrants, DHS must robustly implement the principles and policies outlined in this memo in partnership with immigrant communities.”  [We Are Home, 10/12/21]

The National Immigration Law Center Praised The Announcement As A Signal Of Pivotal Change. “Today’s welcome announcement by the Biden administration signals pivotal changes ahead that will make workplaces across the country safer and more equitable for all workers and finally puts an end to deeply harmful worksite raids. We applaud Secretary Mayorkas for taking this transformational step that represents a paradigm shift away from targeting undocumented workers to holding accountable the unscrupulous employers who are the ones responsible for depressing working conditions for all workers. We look forward to continuing to partner with unions, workers’ rights partners, and the Biden administration to secure critical worker protections that will strengthen labor standards for all workers and create a more just and inclusive immigration system that recognizes the humanity and contributions of all immigrants.” [We Are Home, 10/12/21]

Mayorkas Has Called For Legislation To Support Families Negatively Impacted By The Trump Administration’s Family Separation Policy

Mayorkas Shared His Hopes For Legislation That Will Grant Legal Status To Families Separated Due To Trump Administration Policy. “In an interview with 60 Minutes, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas condemned the Trump administration for not maintaining adequate records of children separated from their parents during its zero-tolerance immigration policy. "It's a marriage of cruelty and shambles of organizational work," Mayorkas told 60 Minutes correspondent Sharyn Alfonsi. "I don't know how to put it more bluntly than that."… Mayorkas went on to call for legislation to support the families affected by the separation policy. “I don't think this is a political issue at all," Mayorkas said. "As a matter of fact, this is one where partisanship did not stand in the way of almost unanimous condemnation of the cruelty of the past… We're hoping for legislation to grant them legal status, and give them that stability, that sort of permanence that they need to really rebuild their lives as families.” [CBS News, 10/10/21]

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