WASHINGTON, D.C. — President-elect Joe Biden is nominating Antony Blinken and Alejandro Mayorkas to lead the Department of State and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), respectively — encouraging choices for the future of immigration and security policy under the Biden administration.
Blinken, a former deputy secretary of state under President Obama, has extensive national security experience. He has spoken out against the Trump administration’s cuts to refugee admissions — this fiscal year’s admissions cap is 15,000 — and called for a refugee admissions cap of 125,000. The planned increase has been praised by faith groups, including World Relief, who help resettle and advocate for refugees.
Mayorkas, who would be the first immigrant and first Latino to lead DHS, previously served as director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and later as deputy DHS secretary under Obama. As deputy DHS secretary, he implemented Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), set clear priorities for immigration enforcement and streamlined visa processes for immigrant workers.
Mayorkas, who has a background in law enforcement, also has championed smart border security and enforcement approaches to streamline DHS while ensuring the safety of all Americans — approaches that local law enforcement leaders have praised.
The Homeland Security and State Department positions will be a critical part of the Biden administration’s immigration approach. Mayorkas’ track record of prioritizing national security while creating opportunities for immigrants to fully contribute and Blinken’s commitment to a robust refugee resettlement program — key points of the Forum’s own Immigration Priorities for a Biden Administration — are encouraging steps toward more commonsense immigration policies.
“These are very smart choices,” said Ali Noorani, President and CEO of the National Immigration Forum. “Antony Blinken understands our nation’s core value of welcoming those seeking safety. Alejandro Mayorkas understands the balance between keeping the nation secure and ensuring that we welcome the talent and the families that help all Americans reach their fullest potential. Both will be essential to a successful Biden immigration approach.
“As we have outlined, compassion for immigrants and an emphasis on security do not have to be at odds, and an approach that champions both is possible. These cabinet picks have shown the kind of leadership that can make that approach a reality.”