WASHINGTON – President-elect Joe Biden announced on Monday that his national security team will be headed by Cuban-American Alejandro Mayorkas, who already served in that group during the 2009-2017 administration of Barack Obama, whom Biden served as vice president.
In a statement, Biden said that Mayorkas, who served as the deputy secretary for the Department of Homeland Security from 2013 to 2016, now will head DHS, which is tasked with handing key issues such as border security and immigration.
Mayorkas, who was born in Havana in 1959, was also director of the US Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency within DHS that administers the nation’s – and the world’s – largest legal immigration system.
According to Biden’s transition team, during his tenure at DHS, Mayorkas headed the development and implementation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, the program that the Obama administration designed to protect from deportation the many thousands of young people brought to this country as children by their undocumented parents.
The Donald Trump administration has sought to put an end to DACA, an initiative that has frequently been in the news because if the program were ended, the so-called “Dreamers” would face deportation back to countries where they only lived as small children.
In addition, Mayorkas headed the DHS response to the Ebola and Zika health crises, helped to build and administer the Blue Campaign to combat people smuggling and participated in the development of an emergency aid program for young orphans after the devastating January 2010 earthquake in Haiti.
Moreover, he created the Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate designed to ensure the integrity of the legal immigration system.
Besides Mayorkas, Biden has selected Avril Haines, 51, to serve as his National Intelligence director, making her the first women to head that agency, and Jake Sullivan, 43, to be one of the youngest national security advisors to serve in the White House in decades.
In the past, Haines served in the Obama Administration as a national security attorney and was the deputy director of the CIA between 2013 and 2017.
In fact, she was the first woman to occupy that post and during her tenure there she decided not to take disciplinary measures against agency personnel whom Senate Intelligence Committee lawmakers accused of having improperly accessed their computers.
Meanwhile, Sullivan has been Biden’s national policy adviser but he has a long career in foreign affairs matters.
He was the vice president’s national security advisor during the second Obama administration and was the deputy chief of staff for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Also, he was a member of a small group of US officials who met in secret with Iranian officials in 2013 to start diplomatic contacts that ultimately led to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, from which Trump withdrew the US after he came into office.
Among other prospective appointments that Biden has made so far is veteran African-American diplomat Linda Thomas-Greenfield as UN ambassador and former Secretary of State John Kerry as climate “czar.”
Thomas-Greenfield, 68, was the assistant secretary of state for African affairs from 2013-2017 during the Obama administration, coordinating the administration’s policies on the African continent, and she served four years as US envoy to Liberia, as well as in foreign service posts in Kenya, Pakistan and Switzerland. She left her diplomatic career in 2017 amid the controversial housecleaning of the State Department undertaken by Trump.
Kerry, 76, is a former US senator and Secretary of State (2013-2017), as well as the Democratic presidential nominee in 2004. It was Kerry who in 2015, ratified the US entry into the Paris Climate Accord.