President-elect Joe Biden’s nomination of Alejandro Mayorkas to head the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is welcome news for America’s law enforcement community. Mayorkas — who served as deputy secretary of DHS under President Barack Obama — is the experienced, level-headed leader the department needs to get back on track.
Mayorkas’ well-documented commitment to collaborating with state and local law enforcement is an important signal that he’s ready to work with communities in developing the safest, most effective immigration policies.
As the police chief in Houston, I know how important it is for federal, state, and local law enforcement officials to collaborate on issues involving immigration.
During his time as a high-ranking immigration official in the Obama administration, Mayorkas made a point of working hand in hand with local law enforcement to achieve the best possible community policing policies. He championed smart border security and enforcement approaches that cut through bureaucratic red tape while ensuring the safety of all Americans.
Mayorkas also understands what is at stake in our communities when immigrants feel threatened. During his work in the Obama administration, he spoke with the Law Enforcement Immigration Task Force, a group to which I belong, on two separate occasions to understand exactly the challenges we face on the ground.
It’s clear that Mayorkas understands that an immigration policy designed to create fear and chaos is not only dangerous for immigrants and their families, but also for communities as a whole.
When immigrants feel they must stay hidden in the shadows, communities are less safe for everyone. Immigrants must feel comfortable speaking with local officials and seeking help in emergencies. Mayorkas has demonstrated that he understands this key dynamic and that he has the ability to collaborate with state and local leaders to keep our communities safe.
Houston is home to a diverse and vibrant immigrant community whose contributions to our city constitute a significant portion of our local economy. I, therefore, appreciate that Mayorkas’ fair and commonsense approach to immigration will support and cultivate our progress, not hold us back.
Mayorkas was responsible for implementing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and streamlining visa processes for immigrant workers. Both support immigrants as key contributors to our economy and society.
A Cuban-born immigrant who fled the Castro revolution with his family as a child, Mayorkas will be the first Latino and immigrant to run DHS and implement the nation’s immigration policies. I am hopeful about the impact that will have in restoring trust in DHS and law enforcement across the country — especially for families who have been living in a constant state of fear.
For four years, the border, asylum and family separation policies effectively have told Americans, immigrants and the world that America is no longer welcoming of outsiders.
Mayorkas will have his work cut out for him to restore the reputation of DHS. But with his long track record of public service, personal understanding of immigrants’ lives and stories, and demonstrated commitment to communities and collaborative partnerships, I am confident he’s the leader to secure the homeland in a smart, comprehensive and humane manner.
Now it’s time for law enforcement and senators to rally around Mayorkas to see his nomination through. He can help pursue commonsense immigration reforms that will help protect our communities and promote respect for the rule of law, but he needs our support to make this a reality.
Mayorkas is a shining example of the rich contributions immigrants have made to our nation throughout our history and is worthy of our support.