Alejandro N. Mayorkas (born November 24, 1959) is a Cuban-American lawyer who served as the Deputy Secretary of the United States Department of Homeland Security from Dec. 23, 2013 to Oct. 31, 2016. He is a partner in the law firm of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale & Dorr ("WilmerHale"), joining the firm on Nov. 1, 2016. Mayorkas practices in the areas of civil and criminal litigation, internal investigations, cybersecurity, crisis management and strategic counseling.
Early life and education
Mayorkas was born in Havana, Cuba in 1959. His parents arrived with him and his sister to the United States in late 1960 as political refugees, following Fidel Castro's communist takeover. He lived in Miami, Florida before his family moved to Los Angeles, California, where he was raised for the remainder of his youth.
Mayorkas earned his Bachelor of Arts degree with distinction from the University of California at Berkeley in 1981. He received his Juris Doctorate from Loyola Law School in Los Angeles in 1985. He lives with his wife and two of his three daughters in Washington, D. C.
Assistant United States Attorney
After three years as a litigation associate in the private practice of law, Mayorkas became an Assistant United States Attorney in the Central District of California in 1989. He prosecuted a wide array of federal crimes, developing a specialization in the prosecution of white collar crime. His prosecutions included the successful prosecution of Operation PolarCap, then the largest money laundering case in the nation; the conviction at trial of Heidi Fleiss on charges of federal conspiracy, tax fraud, and money laundering charges; the takedown and successful prosecutions of two of the District's largest telemarketing fraud operations that preyed on the elderly; and, the takedown and successful prosecution of a health care fraud and insurance fraud conspiracy.
Mayorkas served as the coordinator of the Southern California Telemarketing Fraud Task Force, overseeing the coordination of federal, state, and local law enforcement and regulatory agencies to most aggressively combat telemarketing fraud throughout the Central District of California.
From 1996 to 1998, Mayorkas served as Chief of the Office's General Crimes Section, overseeing the training and trial work of all new Assistant United States Attorneys in the Criminal Division. He received numerous awards from federal law enforcement agencies, including from FBI Director Louis Freeh for the successful prosecution of Operation PolarCap.
United States Attorney
In 1998, Mayorkas was recommended by Senator Dianne Feinstein and appointed by President Clinton as the United States Attorney for the Central District of California. He led an office of 240 Assistant U.S. Attorneys in the prosecution of cases in varied areas of law enforcement, including cases of public corruption, investment fraud, violent crime and narcotics trafficking, civil rights violations, high-tech and computer-related crime, organized crime, environmental crime, and international money laundering. He coordinated federal and state law enforcement agencies, including the creation of new multi-agency task forces, to combat discrete crime problems, including the creation of a task force to address gang-initiated violent crime and drug trafficking, the development of a joint federal and local law enforcement agencies response to gun violence, and the coordination of law enforcement and regulatory agencies in combating financial fraud, including a District-wide takedown of mortgage fraud operations.
Mayorkas oversaw the prosecution of criminal cases of national significance, including the prosecution of the Mexican Mafia in death penalty proceedings, the prosecution of Buford 0. Furrow, Jr. for the murder of a federal postal worker and the hate-motivated shooting of children in a local community center, the prosecution of Litton Industries for the payment of bribes abroad, and the takedown of the violent 18th Street gang using RICO statutes.
In late 2000 Mayorkas was questioned regarding his involvement in President Clinton's commutation of the sentence of convicted narcotics trafficker Carlos Vignali, Jr., after returning a call from the White House regarding the case. News accounts reported Mayorkas' participation in the call and, during his Senate confirmation hearing for Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services years later, Mayorkas testified to the extent of his role.
As the United States Attorney Mayorkas created the Civil Rights Section to prosecute hate crimes and other acts of intolerance and discrimination more effectively, and served as Vice Chair of the Attorney General's Advisory Subcommittee on Civil Rights and as a member of the Subcommittee on Ethics in Government. He received numerous law enforcement and community awards, including the U.S. Postal Inspection Service's highest award for the successful prosecution of Buford 0. Furrow, Jr.
Private Law Practice
In September 2001, Mayorkas joined the international law firm of O'Melveny & Myers LLP as a litigation partner, representing Fortune 100 and other companies in high profile and sensitive investigations and trial court cases. He advised boards of directors and top executives, covering a wide array of industries including telecommunications, health care, consumer safety, aerospace, and media. He was a member of the firm's governing Policy Committee, Chair of the firm's Values Awards Committee, Chair of the Warren Christopher Scholarship Committee, and a recipient of the firm's Values Award, an annual award given to two partners worldwide who exemplify the firm's values of leadership, excellence, and citizenship.
Upon the election of President Barack Obama in November 2008, Mayorkas was selected by the President-Elect to lead the transition team responsible for the U.S. Department of Justice's Criminal Division. He served in that role until the inauguration of President Obama in January 2009.
Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
In 2009, Mayorkas was appointed by President Obama and unanimously confirmed by the Senate as the Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency that administers the Nation's - and the world's - largest - legal immigration system.xix As the Director, Mayorkas transformed the agency, including realigning its organizational structure to prioritize the agency's fraud detection and national security responsibilities and creating an office of public engagement that made the agency more transparent and open in its consideration, development, and promulgation of policies and practices impacting the more than 7 million people who apply for benefits each year. Mayorkas championed United States citizenship, management efficiencies and fiscal responsibility, and safeguarding the integrity of the immigration system. He led the 18,000-member workforce, with a budget of nearly $3 billion, in implementing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) process in 60 days, a feat The New York Times praised highly. He led the rescue of orphaned children following the tragic January 2010 earthquake in Haiti and led the advancement of a crime victims unit that, for the first time, resulted in the ability of the agency to administer the statutory maximum number of visas to victims of crime.
For his work as the Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Mayorkas received numerous awards from civic and community organizations, including the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights.xxiii
Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security
Mayorkas was confirmed as the Deputy Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security in December 2014, following a party line Senate vote. Originally scheduled for a Senate confirmation hearing only several weeks after his nomination, the DHS Inspector General's office leaked that it was investigating Mayorkas based on allegations that he exercised undue influence in the adjudication of an EB-5 petition involving Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe. Mayorkas vigorously denied the allegations in his Senate confirmation hearing, which Republicans boycotted. Mayorkas was ultimately confirmed and months later, the Inspector General resigned amid allegations of his misconduct.
Mayorkas is involved in almost every aspect of the Department's work, from tackling the Department's presence on GAO's "high risk list" for management challenges to its pivotal role domestically and internationally in combating terrorism. He helps lead the Department in battling cyber crime, partnering with the private sector to enhance the Nation's cyber security, and developing innovative ways to promote lawful trade, travel, and tourism. Mayorkas is engaged with government at all levels, with the law enforcement and intelligence community here and abroad, and with the private sector as he continues in his role as the Deputy Secretary.