Alejandro Mayorkas Biden’s Pick for Homeland Security

He would be the first Latino and first immigrant in the post.

President-elect Joe Biden is flooding the zone with cabinet picks today, presumably to make the announcements himself before they’re leaked.

NPR (“Alejandro Mayorkas, Biden’s Pick For DHS Head, Would Be First Latino In Post“):

President-elect Biden announced Monday his intent to nominate Alejandro Mayorkas, a Cuban émigré, to head the government agency that oversees immigration issues, the Department of Homeland Security.

Unlike literally everyone else Biden has named thus far, I had never heard of Mayorkas. But, like all the rest of them, he’s unquestionably qualified for the post:

Mayorkas, who would be the first Latino and first immigrant to hold that job, previously served as head of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, a DHS agency, during the Obama administration, and then as deputy secretary of DHS.

Following the announcement, Mayorkas tweeted that “When I was very young, the United States provided my family and me a place of refuge. Now, I have been nominated to be the DHS Secretary and oversee the protection of all Americans and those who flee persecution in search of a better life for themselves and their loved ones.”

While I’ve long since tired of the identity politics of the first woman that and the first Black/Latino/whatever that, there’s actually a special significance to having a Latino immigrant in this particular post. And that’s doubly so after the divisive outrages of the Trump administration.

That, as with Avril Haynes as Director of National Intelligence, Biden was able to achieve a “first” without resorting to tokenism—indeed, picking someone who would have naturally been atop any reasonable list of Democratic nominees for their posts—makes it even more noteworthy. It’s a strong signal that we’re nearing the point where cataloging these “firsts” will be a thing of the past as women and minority talent is in sufficient abundance that their selection will be natural—if intentional—rather than a compromise.

FILED UNDER: Joe Biden
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Gustopher says:

    While I’ve long since tired of the identity politics of the first woman that and the first Black/Latino/whatever that, there’s actually a special significance to having a Latino immigrant in this particular post.

    Biden is the 45th white man to hold the office of the Presidency, if that helps.

    Ok, I get what you mean, but it’s not for you. It’s like cricket tournaments — you just let the affected people have their win, and don’t try to piss on their parade by saying “it’s not a real sport.”

    Almost all of it seems anticlimactic after our first Black President, as the barriers for give or take every other ethnic group seem lower, and the position is lower, but a white man nominating a cabinet that reflects America is on the whole pretty impressive. Typically, people choose people they have a similar background to, just the way the old boy network works, reinforced by the quiet bias of familiarity.

    I bet Harris helped. And Obama.

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  2. gVOR08 says:

    Biden was able to achieve a “first” without resorting to tokenism—indeed, picking someone who would have naturally been atop any reasonable list

    As with Yellen. Testament to a deep bench.

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  3. Kathy says:

    @Gustopher:

    Biden is the 45th white man to hold the office of the Presidency, if that helps.

    I think the 46th Christian, too, though only the second Catholic.

    BTW, CNN has a Biden cabinet chart in this piece, about 1/3 downwards from the headline.

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  4. James Joyner says:

    @Gustopher: Oh, absolutely. Until Trump broke the streak, every successive administration in my lifetime has broken the previous administration’s diversity record. LBJ appointed the first Black SCOTUS Justice. Reagan the first woman. Bush 41 the first Black Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. Clinton the first woman Secretary of State and Attorney General. Bush 43 had the first Black man and first Black woman State. But, yes, Obama becoming POTUS pretty much made every other achievement secondary. And Hillary Clinton all but broke the “glass ceiling” for women in that post, winning a popular vote victory.

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  5. Scott F. says:

    @gVOR08:

    Testament to a deep bench.

    This is most relevant. The way you place ‘firsts’ in prominent roles in government without resorting to tokenism is to first place them in supporting roles in government in significant numbers. The Democrats have been building their bench for Executive roles for a couple of decades now.

    They’ve got a lot of really qualified people ready to judges as well, if Georgians will do us the favor of pushing McConnell out of the Majority Leader chair.

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  6. Loviatar says:

    @Gustopher:

    Ok, I get what you mean, but it’s not for you. It’s like cricket tournaments — you just let the affected people have their win, and don’t try to piss on their parade by saying “it’s not a real sport.”

    Thank you for this. Too many don’t get it.

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  7. Sleeping Dog says:

    If you are playing ID politics here is something that is a knife in the ribs to Rs.

    Certain quarters will howl about and immigrant at DHS, DUAL LOYALTIES! But this particular immigrant is a Cuban, one of the good immigrant groups. So they complain at their risk of alienating a voting community.

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  8. Jax says:

    Good Lord, what IS that smell?! Competent, qualified Cabinet nominations?! Ahhhh…..yes…..that’s the sweet, sweet smell of FREEDOM!!!! I had almost forgotten what it smelled like!

    Four seasons of Celebrity Apprentice: The White House has made me supremely happy about boring Cabinet picks. 😉

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  9. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Biden was able to achieve a “first” without resorting to tokenism—

    OK, I just gotta stop you here and say, that’s how you perceived it. And I guarantee that a whole lot of Republicans still perceive it that way, because in their minds, these positions are the natural property of white men. And a part of you used to too.

    I mean, really, do you ever listen to the words that come out of your mouth?

  10. James Joyner says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: That’s a truly bizarre comment. You literally stopped halfway through the sentence to critique it while ignoring the second half of the sentence and the rest of the paragraph.

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