Assuming a new administration in January, who will head up the Department of Homeland Security?
Five names are currently being discussed in the press. Stretching my neck out, I would place them in this order of probability:
- Alejandro Mayorkas, deputy secretary of DHS under President Obama;
- Rep. Val Demings of Florida;
- Governor Gina Raimondo of Rhode Island;
- Lisa Monaco, former homeland security adviser to President Obama; and
- Xavier Becerra, the attorney general of California.
The reason that I put Becerra in fifth place is because he is a solid candidate for two other high-ranking positions. He might succeed Kamala Harris as senator from California, just as he succeeded her as attorney general. This would make geo-political sense as both senators from California have been from the Bay Area for a long time; his appointment to the Senate would result in one member from the Los Angeles area (Becerra) and one from the Bay Area (Dianne Feinstein).
Becerra, who is also said to be under consideration for the U.S. attorney general, spent 24 years in the House of Representatives.
I might note in passing, thinking along the lines of former Governor Mario Cuomo, that of the 10 names of the five candidates, six end in vowels. Four of the five are native-born, with Mayorkas having been born in Havana. Two of the others come from Italian family backgrounds, and Becerra from a Mexican one. Four of the five have law degrees. The exception is Demings, a Black woman, who was a police chief in Orlando.
Mayorkas, now a partner at the prestigious Wilmer Hale firm in Washington, D.C., has the most direct immigration experience, having been Obama's first director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services before being promoted to deputy secretary of DHS later in the Obama years.
Politico, however, has written about his prospects:
If Biden taps Mayorkas, he could also face questions about a 2015 inspector general's report that found that Mayorkas went around normal agency channels and intervened with [USCIS] career staffers in ways that led them "to reasonably believe that specific individuals or groups were being given special access or consideration" in the EB-5 visa program.
The article leaves out a key detail, however: The acting inspector general who was feuding with Mayorkas at the time, Charles K. Edwards, has had his credibility marred since, having been indicted for financial misdoings in the federal courts in the District of Columbia.
Raimondo has earned good marks for her supervision of a once-troubled state government; I have never heard of anything she did, one way or the other, in the immigration field. Monaco is a new name to me; she also served in high-ranking positions in the Obama Justice Department. Demings has served on both the House Homeland Security and Judiciary Committees, both of which deal with DHS matters.
All of the women would probably face less difficulty being confirmed than either of the two men, on the grounds that the men have taken positions that are controversial.
One other name that might well be in the mix is that of the well-regarded Doris Meissner, who served as commissioner of the old Immigration and Naturalization Service under President Clinton, and has been for years a senior fellow at the Migration Policy Institute. A centrist, she has spent a lifetime in the immigration business and may not want to face the hassle of the secretaryship. She might, however, have less difficulty being confirmed than some of the others.