WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, during a hearing of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC), U.S. Senator Jacky Rosen (D-NV) questioned Alejandro Mayorkas, President-elect Joseph Biden’s nominee to serve as Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) about protecting Dreamers and TPS recipients, the need for comprehensive immigration reform, and combating anti-Semitism and extremism. A transcript of the Senator’s full exchange can be found below, and a video of the Senator’s full exchange can be found here.
ROSEN: Mr. Mayorkas, thank you for being with us today and for your commitment to serving our nation. I appreciated our productive meeting last month and I look forward to learning more about your plans to secure our homeland while treating immigrant communities with both dignity and respect. Amidst a global pandemic and with the ever-present threat of cyber-attacks, domestic terrorism, and adversaries from abroad, I urge this committee to facilitate a swift confirmation for Mr. Mayorkas so he can immediately get to work for our country.
I’d like to ask my first question about protecting DACA and TPS. The DACA and TPS programs have provided critical protections to an estimated 13,000 DACA recipients and more than 4,000 TPS holders in Nevada – from college students and small business owners to medical professionals and members of the Armed Forces.
However, the Trump Administration relentlessly targeted these programs, causing significant stress and uncertainty in our communities. This is all the more troubling as thousands of DACA and TPS recipients who are frontline workers continue to risk their lives to help combat the COVID-19 pandemic. While Congress will continue to work in a bipartisan manner to permanently protect DACA and TPS, the Administration must strengthen these programs and to protect Dreamers and TPS holders.
So, how do you plan to protect DACA recipients until we pass comprehensive immigration reform?
MAYORKAS: Senator, thank you. President-elect Biden has committed to presenting Congress on day one with a permanent solution, an immigration reform bill, and I would be privileged to serve as his Secretary and work with Congress in passing legislation to fix our much-broken immigration system. President-elect Biden also has committed to reinstituting the DACA program that I was proud to implement when I served as Director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. And, President-elect Biden has also committed to following the law and applying Temporary Protected Status or TPS as it is commonly known to populations who qualify for it by reasons of the country conditions in other nations of origin. I look forward to executing the President’s commitments should I have the honor of serving as his secretary of homeland security.
ROSEN: One final point on this. We do have a lot of TPS recipients in Nevada, and so, how do we strengthen the review process, or strengthen our process to provide more certainty. Some of these recipients have been here for decades, and frankly, they’re pillars within our community.
MAYORKAS: Senator, again, I look forward to working with Congress in finding a permanent solution to immigration reform, and the needs of individuals who have been resident in this country for many, many years, and have contributed to its well-being. Temporary Protected Status has statutory requirements that we in the Obama-Biden Administration were very proud to apply an adherence to the law and in the service of the equitable and humanitarian considerations that the law contemplated. I look forward to doing so in close partnership with you and this committee.
ROSEN: Thank you. In the past few years, we have seen an alarming increase in domestic anti-Semitism and white supremacist extremism – from neo-Nazis chanting “Jews will not replace us” in Charlottesville to the deadliest attack against the Jewish community in modern American history at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. Just this month, we saw American citizens lay siege to the U.S. Capitol, waving Confederate flags, hanging a noose on the West Front lawn, and wearing “Camp Auschwitz” t-shirts.
Despite the fact that DHS concluded last year that “racially and ethnically motivated violent extremists—specifically white supremacist extremists—will remain the most persistent and lethal threat in the Homeland”, the Department has not adequately invested in combatting domestic threats.
I’d like to talk a bit about our Nonprofit Security Grant Program. FEMA provides this to synagogues, Jewish community centers, other nonprofits, and houses of worship all across this country to protect against terrorist attacks. And in recent years, DHS’s offices have tried to prevent domestic terrorism, but we have faced major cuts in personnel and funding. The department lacks a coherent strategy to combat anti-Semitism and white supremacist extremism online, which far too often, unfortunately, manifests itself in real-life actions.
I am co-chair of the Senate Bipartisan Task Force for Combating Anti-Semitism, along with Senator Lankford. I’d like to ask you, what are your plans are for addressing anti-Semitism and tackling online platforms that are promoting anti-Semitism?
MAYORKAS: Senator, I am profoundly aware of the threat and existence of anti-Semitism in our country and the world. My mother lost her paternal grandparents and seven uncles by reason of their Jewish faith in the Holocaust. My mother fled her home with her parents because of the Holocaust.
I have dedicated a considerable amount of my personal and professional energy to battling anti-Semitism and discrimination in all forms. Most recently, I served on the advisory board of the Secure Community Network, sponsored by the Jewish Federation, to protect day schools, synagogues, and places of worship. I have worked with the Anti-Defamation League to battle discrimination and hate in all forms. Under my leadership as the Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security, we grew the Nonprofit Grant Program to best protect minority communities and communities of faith from the scourge of hate, and I would be privileged to work with you and this committee to make sure we build on those advances and once and for all tackle this challenge that has caused so much pain to so many.
ROSEN: Thank you.