Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee are refusing to hold hearings on Alejandro Mayorkas, President Joe Biden’s nominee to helm the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
On Tuesday, Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) and several top Republicans sent a letter to the committee’s incoming chairman, Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), arguing the panel should hold its own hearings on Mayorkas’s qualifications. The senators, in particular, wrote that while the Senate Homeland Security Committee had purview over the nomination, an independent hearing was needed given Mayorkas’s views on existing immigration law. The letter states.:
The Committee on the Judiciary has jurisdiction over matters relating to immigration and nationality under [the current Senate rules]. For this reason, all members of the committee should have the opportunity … to publicly discuss with [Mayorkas] his plans with respect to [DHS’s] immigration components and functions.
The Republicans signing the letter specifically outlined that they were not trying to impede the Senate Homeland Security Committee’s jurisdiction.
Despite the strong argument laid out within the letter, however, Durbin and Senate Democrats refused, suggesting that such an action would only delay the time it takes to get Biden’s administration in place.
“He is an outstanding nominee to be the Secretary of Homeland Security,” Durbin said from the floor of the United States Senate on Tuesday while urging a swift confirmation. “His experience, qualifications, expertise, and integrity will serve America well at a time when we desperately need him.”
Durbin’s refusal to hold a separate hearing on the nomination comes as Democrats have sought to expedite the confirmation of Mayorkas. Politico reported earlier this month that some within the Biden administration were eager to fast-track the nomination as immigration was one of the new president’s top priorities.
Mayorkas, who previously served as deputy DHS secretary during the Obama administration, is expected to lead Biden’s efforts to grant a pathway to citizenship to the majority of illegal immigrants already residing within the United States. The prospective DHS chief is also likely to overhaul the stringent regulations that the Trump administration put in place in an attempt to undercut the impetus for illegal migration, including cooperative asylum agreements with Central American countries.
The push by Democrats to quickly confirm Mayorkas has coincided with a string of negative stories about the nominee’s past. Most notably, Mayorkas has come under scrutiny for a report by an Obama-era DHS inspector general claiming that he had helped secure EB-5 visas for well-connected foreign nationals.
Similarly, a report by the conservative-leaning Center for Immigration Studies accused Mayorkas of having ignored credible cases of asylum fraud while running the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services during Obama’s first term.