McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — President-elect Joe Biden’s pick to lead the Department of Homeland Security spoke to an online immigration business panel Thursday afternoon and promised under his direction the new administration would make bipartisan immigration reform a top priority.
“We will roll up our sleeves starting on Day 1 to fix what is broken, to keep families together and to build an immigration system that works for all of us,” Alejandro Mayorkas told the American Business Immigration Coalition during its daylong Reigniting the Economic Engine: Immigration Solutions for 2021 virtual summit.
Biden on Nov. 23 nominated Mayorkas to take over the nation’s largest law enforcement agency and, if confirmed by the U.S. Senate, he would be the first Latino in charge of the country’s security and immigration enforcement.
Mayorkas served as deputy secretary of Homeland Security during the Obama administration and prior to that was director of the Department’s United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the agency charged with operating the largest immigration system in the world.
In a five-minute speech, Mayorkas offered little in specifics but stuck to the notion that the Biden administration will be successful in working “across the aisle” in accomplishing comprehensive immigration reform — something that has not been accomplished in generations and eluded Biden’s mentor, President Barack Obama, when he took over the White House with a Democratic-majority House and Senate.
“I have been nominated to be the secretary of Homeland Security to oversee the protection of all Americans, and fulfilling our promise as a nation of all immigrants with integrity and a way that is humane and secure,” Mayorkas said. “Today’s immigration system is badly broken and we all know it.”
Today’s immigration system is badly broken and we all know it.”Alejandro Mayorkas, nominee for Secretary of Homeland Security
The son of Jewish immigrants from Cuba, who himself immigrated as a young boy in 1960, Mayorkas repeatedly called “inhumane” the current treatment of migrants as well as the treatment of asylum-seeking children and families that are separated at the border.
“We must stop vilifying these communities. We must bring to an end the inhumane and unjust treatments of immigrants. There is no more hurtful than the separation of children,” said Mayorkas, 61.
Mayorkas conceded that immigration reform must include a system that is economically fair for citizens and those seeking citizenship in the United States.
“One that will help create jobs, raise wages and grow our economy not just for the immigrant community but for all,” he said. “Biden is committed to fixing this broken immigration system. He knows this will require working with both sides of the aisle.”
But not everyone shares his optimism.
Earlier Thursday, U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, a Republican from the West Texas border who is stepping down at year’s end, told the same online business summit that he doubted Biden will accomplish this feat.
Don’t get too excited about Joe Biden. … Remember Obama.”U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas
“Don’t get too excited about Joe Biden,” said Hurd, whose district includes over 500 miles of border, the most of any representative in Congress. “Remember Obama and what he went through. I actually think this makeup of Congress could be further away.”
Hurd, one of Donald Trump’s more outspoken Republican critics, believes immigration reform must “be done in a piecemeal fashion.”
“Comprehensive immigration reform isn’t going to work and the reason is because of the different coalitions of individuals that you’re going to need to get to 218 (votes) in the House,” Hurd said.
Tony Gonzalez, a Republican, won on Nov. 3 and will replace Hurd, who represented the 23rd Texas Congressional District since 2014.
Sandra Sanchez can be reached at Ssanchez@borderreport.com.