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A Cuban-American Immigrant Who Grew Up In LA May Be The Next DHS Secretary

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Alejandro Mayorkas. (Roger L. Wollenberg/Getty Images)

President-elect Joe Biden plans to nominate Alejandro Mayorkas, who grew up in L.A., to lead the Department of Homeland Security. If confirmed, he would be the first Latino and first immigrant to steer the massive bureaucracy responsible for border security and enforcing immigration laws.

Biden announced the pick today along with selections for several foreign policy and national security posts, including Secretary of State, United Nations ambassador, and more.

“Ali” Mayorkas grew up in Beverly Hills after his family fled Cuba for the U.S. when he was an infant. He graduated from Loyola Law School and made a name for himself in the 1990s as an Assistant U.S. Attorney working fraud cases. A 2000 Los Angeles Magazine profile recounts his successful prosecution of “Hollywood Madam” Heidi Fleiss for money laundering.

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Mayorkas rose to become U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California, overseeing the federal government’s prosecution of drug cartels and white supremacists. He started the first Civil Rights Section in the office’s history aimed at investigating and prosecuting police misconduct and hate crimes.

“Ali's interest in vindicating the constitutional rights of those impacted by government action will serve him well and provide an important counterweight to what has been going on these past four years at DHS,” former federal prosecutor Michael Gennaco said in an email. Gennaco headed up the Civil Rights Section under Mayorkas.

In 2012, as head of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in the Obama Administration, Mayorkas helped develop and implement the Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals program that temporarily suspended deportation proceedings and granted work authorization to immigrants brought to the United States as kids.

He later served as Deputy DHS Secretary under Janet Napolitano and Jeh Johnson.

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