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Public Statements

Making Continuing Appropriations for Fiscal Year 2013--Continued

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Ms. LANDRIEU. I appreciate the courtesies of the Senator from Washington, who is on the floor managing the bill. I thank her for allowing me to make these brief remarks regarding one of the nominees of President Obama--someone we will be confirming, hopefully, in the next short period of time.

I come to the floor to give my strong and unequivocal support to Alejandro Mayorkas as the Deputy Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. Before I speak about his many extraordinary qualifications for this job, let me say that it has been very disappointing and very concerning to me that so many high-level leadership positions in this particular Department have gone unfilled for so long.

It has been 6 months since Secretary Janet Napolitano stepped down, having given notice of her departure after serving with such distinction and contributing so much to the strengthening of that agency. All agencies of the Federal Government are important and there are advocacy groups who argue for them, but I think everyone understands the real significance of the Department of Homeland Security. It is a relatively new agency. The Department is only 10 years old, but it plays a key role in the security of our homeland. Because it is new, it is still struggling with how to coordinate and unite all of the internal parts and coordinate effectively with the Department of Defense.

It has new and emerging technological challenges that are extremely demanding. The cyber attack which is happening daily and which is a growing threat to us is a very important part of their mission.

May I remind Senators that immigration, border control, and border security are right in the middle of the mission of this Department. So if we want to have strong immigration policies and smart immigration policies and secure our borders with smart fences, we better get somebody who is experienced and smart to run the operation.

That is why I am here to support Alejandro Mayorkas, who has been the Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for the last several years. He has received many compliments from both Republicans and Democrats in his role as our chief immigration officer. He has worked to secure the border and has made tremendous improvements with the resources, which have been quite significant, that we have provided to strengthen the border. He brings tremendous experience as having run one of the most significant agencies within the Department.

Today we have a chance to start filling the leadership vacuum at the Department of Homeland Security not only with visionary leaders such as Alejandro Mayorkas but with leaders who have practical hands-on experience running the important parts of this Department.

As I mentioned, the nominee is the current Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which is really how I got to meet him and to know him and to work with him in such a close fashion.

Many of my colleagues know that I have the responsibility and privilege of informally heading up our Senate adoption caucus, and I do some international travel, helping to strengthen child welfare work around the world as well as, of course, in Louisiana and here domestically in the United States. We ran into a significant problem several years ago, which we are still trying to unwind, when Guatemala closed adoptions and our own State Department was a partner in that closure. There might have been--might have been--some good reasons for closure. The problem was that in the middle of that, there were 900 American families from every State in the Union who were caught. They were not placed on any transition list nor were they given any support--virtually no support from either our State Department or from the country of Guatemala. So some of us stepped in with partners at the State Department and others to see what we could do to help.

It has been a long, hard road for many of these parents and children who have now been stuck in orphanages, in group homes. They are no longer infants. Some of them are 8 years old and have waited 6 years for their adoption to be finalized. Some of them are 15.

Amidst all of the work the nominee had to do on immigration and so many conflicting pressures, Alejandro Mayorkas took the time to give leadership and voice and help to the powerless. That speaks a lot to me, and it should to the members of our coalition, which is very broad and completely nonpartisan, when a very important person with a lot of power steps out of that comfort zone and helps people who have no lobbyists, no power. Without his help, we would not be making the progress we are making. That is one example that proves to me he is the kind of leader we need more of, not less of, here in Washington.

I have full confidence that--based on my knowledge of his experience of running immigration and my personal knowledge of his character and his integrity and his tremendous ability in terms of diplomacy and negotiating, which I witnessed firsthand, working with many high-level government officials from outside of our own government--he has the skills to negotiate within this agency to bring everyone to a common cause, a common vision, and a common plan to move this very important Department forward.

Prior to his directorship as immigration director for the United States, he served for a good bit of time as a U.S. attorney prosecuting criminal and white-collar crime and gang violence in California. He is known very well to the two Senators from California. I think it was Senator Feinstein who recommended him to that position. She has testified on his behalf and has submitted statements for the Record. Both Senators from California can also vouch for his almost flawless record of service.

He has already been confirmed twice by the Senate. Yet, unfortunately, there were some political concerns that are not valid that held him up. So we have moved him forward. He got a strong vote from the members of our committee who know him well and understand his high level of integrity and his proven record of service to the people of the United States.

Again, I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to take a strong look at this nominee, understanding that he has been confirmed twice before. He is an outstanding, unblemished prosecutor of crime. He would be a perfect person, with his background and experience, to serve as a Deputy Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. I, frankly, think he is one of the most qualified people whom I have seen nominated.

Today, we have a chance to start filling the leadership vacuum at the Department of Homeland Security with visonary leaders. Ali Mayorkas--the current director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services--is exactly

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the type of leader we need in the deputy secretary position.
Since his confirmation as head of USCIS by voice vote by the Senate in 2009, Director Mayorkas has led the effort to turn around an agency that was widely considered to be foundering and helped build a professional and competent workforce.

Director Mayorkas brings all the right qualities for this critical position; these qualities include a pushing for collaboration and efficiency within the workplace. As a prosecutor and a former U.S. attorney for California, Mr. Mayorkas demonstrated his commitment to enforcing the law to protect U.S. citizens.

As Congress and our Nation move closer to comprehensive immigration reform, we must have the proper leadership in place in the Department of Homeland Security to ensure that the laws we pass are enacted with the same transparency and accountability that he brings to his current post. I can think of no better leader to guide DHS in this pursuit, as he will do so in a way that balances the needs of our business communities and families while keeping our border safe and secure.

Mr. Mayorkas' previous experience provides a solid foundation for his future work and an extensive knowledge of our immigration system and the overall mission of the Department of Homeland Security. As the chairman of the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, I am keenly aware how important it is to have strong management at the head of this Department and believe him to be uniquely qualified for the job.

I have every confidence in his devotion to safeguarding our Nation and his ability to effectively perform his duties in this new role. I will be proudly casting my vote in support of his nomination as Deputy Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.

I yield the floor. I don't see any other Senator wishing to speak at this moment, so I suggest the absence of a quorum.


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