VIDEO RELEASE: On the Senate Floor, Carper Implores Colleagues to Support Ali Mayorkas to Lead the Department of Homeland Security
Feb 02 2021
Carper: “We are fortunate that an individual as well-prepared and qualified as Ali Mayorkas has the opportunity to lead the Department through the many crises and challenges it faces today. I don’t stake my reputation on a lot of people, but I’m more than willing to stake it on Ali Mayorkas. He will make us and this country proud.”
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.), a senior member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC), took to the Senate floor to express his support for Alejandro (Ali) Mayorkas and implore his colleagues to support him to lead the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Ali Mayorkas is the first Latino American and first immigrant to be confirmed to hold this position. He has previously served as the head of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and the Deputy Secretary of DHS during the Obama Administration. Mr. Mayorkas was confirmed today by a bipartisan vote of 56-43.
“The American people deserve a capable leader at the helm of the Department. And I believe that leader is Ali Mayorkas,” said Senator Carper. “Ali represents the best of America. Born in Havana, Cuba, Ali knows firsthand what it’s like for a family to flee its native land and come to the United States in search of refuge. He is a man of integrity and principle who possesses a truly remarkable work ethic. What’s more, he may well be the most qualified nominee we’ve ever been asked to consider to lead the Department.”
Carper continued, “It’s one thing to disagree with a nominee politically. But to continue to question Ali’s dedication and integrity on the basis of this IG report, as some of my Republican colleagues have, flies in the face of all available evidence, including his decades of public service. And at a time when the nation faces so many crises, we cannot afford less than full support for this nominee.”
When Ali Mayorkas was nominated to serve as Deputy Secretary of DHS in 2013, Senator Carper served as the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC) and led the fight to confirm him to that critical position.
Senator Carper’s full remarks, as prepared for delivery, can be found below. You can view Senator Carper’s full remarks here.
“Mr. President, I’ve had the honor of serving on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which oversees the Department of Homeland Security, since the committee was first formed. Almost two decades later, I remain convinced that the nominees we confirm to lead the Department must possess sound judgement, integrity, relevant experience, boundless energy and the leadership skills that will enable them to take on some of the most daunting challenges we face as a nation.
“The Department of Homeland Security is a department with a budget of over $50 billion dollars and a staff of over 240,000 men and women. Its agencies protect our country from ever-evolving domestic and foreign threats, respond to natural disasters, and help to secure our critical infrastructure. Unfortunately, in recent years, the senior leadership ranks of this Department have come to remind many of us of something akin to executive branch Swiss cheese, with critical positions remaining vacant for far too long or without Senate confirmation. In fact, DHS has been without a Senate-confirmed Secretary for 21 months. Think about that. 21 months! Meanwhile, there’s no shortage of work to be done – from the clear and present threat of domestic terrorism, to responding to the SolarWinds cyber breach, to helping distribute the COVID vaccine. Now more than ever, it is crucial for this important Department to be led by men and women who have been vetted and confirmed by the members of this body.
“The American people deserve a capable leader at the helm of the Department. And I believe that leader is Ali Mayorkas. Ali represents the best of America. Born in Havana, Cuba, Ali knows firsthand what it’s like for a family to flee its native land and come to the United States in search of refuge. He is a man of integrity and principle who possesses a truly remarkable work ethic. What’s more, he may well be the most qualified nominee we’ve ever been asked to consider to lead the Department.
“He has previously served admirably as its Deputy Secretary, before that, as the head of DHS’ largest agency, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. As Director of this agency, he worked to combat immigration fraud. He directed and implemented the DACA program to protect hundreds of thousands of Dreamers, and much more. As Deputy Secretary, he led the Department’s successful Unity of Effort initiative to boost morale at an agency which previously had the lowest morale of any large agency in our federal government. In fact, the department that reported the greatest improvement in morale in the final year of the Obama administration was DHS, in large part due to Ali’s leadership and that of Secretary Jeh Johnson. As Deputy Secretary, Mr. Mayorkas also shepherded through Congress cybersecurity legislation to enable DHS to better protect our ‘dot gov’ (.gov) and private sector networks.
“Those who know Ali well will tell you that he is no ideologue. He has no partisan agenda. Rather, he is a thoughtful, policy-minded public servant who has spent much of his career improving DHS so that the men and women who serve there can better protect our homeland. And we have seen that he is willing to work with Democrats, Republicans and their staffs to get things done. That’s one of the many reasons that five former Secretaries of Homeland Security – Democrats and Republicans alike – have encouraged us to confirm him swiftly. I know that Ali can do the job. He has already demonstrated that. And, I believe that many of my colleagues here today know it, too. I sincerely hope he will be confirmed by us here today—just as he has been confirmed by the Senate three times in the past, including once as U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California.
“Having said that, though, some of our Republican colleagues are attempting now to use a 2013 IG investigation as a cudgel against Ali’s nomination. As it turns out, we’ve seen this movie before. I should note that a number of those colleagues were not serving in Congress at the time, and most were not serving on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee when it considered Ali’s nomination that year to serve as Deputy Secretary. I was privileged to serve as Chairman of the Committee at the time. In fact, I led the fight to confirm him. It’s one thing to disagree with a nominee politically. But to continue to question Ali’s dedication and integrity on the basis of this IG report, as some of my Republican colleagues have, flies in the face of all available evidence, including his decades of public service. And at a time when the nation faces so many crises, we cannot afford less than full support for this nominee. So I want to take a few minutes today to set the record straight. So here are the facts.
“In 2013, an IG investigation into Ali Mayorkas’ oversight of a program within United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, known as the EB-5 program, was conducted in a highly irregular manner, including through false leaks to the media literally on the eve of his confirmation hearing. As a result of that IG’s public leaks, and his failure to complete a report before the close of Congress, Ali was denied a chance to have any concerns fully litigated ahead of his confirmation in the Senate in 2013. Ultimately, the IG who initiated the investigation stepped down later that year amid bipartisan calls for his resignation. Last year, he was charged by the Department of Justice with sixteen counts of fraud.
“Following Ali’s confirmation, my staff and I worked to ensure that the subsequent IG completed a report into any allegations. In 2015, that new IG, John Roth, produced a report building on the work of the 2013 investigation. The report found no evidence of wrongdoing by Ali. None. What it did suggest, however, was that some of his actions as Director of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services may have created the ‘appearance of favoritism.’ In particular, it asserted that Ali met with a number of well-connected individuals over time regarding their concerns over the EB-5 investor visa program. After Ali joined United States Citizenship and Immigration Services as its Director in 2009, he came to the conclusion that this program was not well run. He was not alone in this conclusion. Ali has testified that as Director of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, he received more complaints from Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle regarding the EB-5 program than he did about any other program.
“In response to these bipartisan concerns, as Director of the agency, Ali did what, in my opinion, many of us would expect an agency head to do. He rolled up his sleeves and worked with his employees to gain an understanding of how the program was being run and to find out how it might be run better. He directed systemic changes. They included improving management and administration of the program in order to reduce favoritism and to combat fraud. He also proposed reforms of the program to Congress in an effort to prevent future abuses—reforms which unfortunately were not pursued by Congress. Our fault. Not his.
And yes, as Director, he set a precedent for getting back to members of Congress quickly in response to their inquiries – even if the answer his agency came up with was ultimately not what they wanted to hear.
“Completing the 2015 IG report was important to clear Ali of any wrongdoing. But its findings, and Ali’s actions, have been mischaracterized by some of our colleagues, who assert that he showed favoritism by reaching out personally to the staff of former Senator Harry Reid over an EB-5 related issue they had raised on behalf of a constituent. As it turns out though, the report is clear. Ali Mayorkas did reach out to that staff – not to deliver preferential treatment but, rather, to let the staff know that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services would not be able to accommodate their request and why. If responsiveness to inquiries by members of Congress and their staff – regardless of whether the response is favorable or not – is a problem for my colleagues, that’s news to me.
“Let me make one more point, if I may. As someone who knows Ali, knows his work, knows his ethic – I believe the 2015 IG report was missing some needed context. Fortunately, though, Ali provided it in a 32-page response—almost as long as the report itself. Among other things, it describes how he met not just with Democratic members, but with a number of our Republican colleagues to address issues important to them, including international adoption and fighting fraud in our immigration programs. And following those meetings, just as with the EB-5 program, Ali took appropriate steps to make improvements based on feedback from his constituents. That is what leaders should do. Those examples – and others included right there in the 2015 IG report – serve to further illustrate Ali’s commitment to doing what he felt was right; to improving the Department by carrying out the law without fear or favor; and by responding promptly and fully to inquiries from members of Congress on both sides of the aisle. And if Ali Mayorkas is confirmed today, I’m hopeful that many of our colleagues and members of our staffs will have a chance in the years to come to work with Ali and his team at DHS and witness for themselves the kind of leader he truly is.
“We are fortunate that an individual as well-prepared and qualified as Ali Mayorkas may soon have the opportunity to lead the Department through the many crises and challenges it faces today. But you don’t have to take my word for it. The late Senator Tom Coburn, a close friend and former colleague of many of us, led the fight against Ali’s confirmation in 2013 when Tom served as the Ranking Member of the Homeland Security Committee, and I was its chairman. Tom’s staff director of the committee at the time was a very capable gentleman named Keith Ashdown. I think it’s important to note that last week, Keith sent a letter to our committee. In it, he wrote of his strong support today of Ali’s nomination to serve as Secretary of DHS. Mr. Ashdown wrote, and I quote, ‘I first came to know Mayorkas when I was the Republican staff director of this committee. At that time, I was working to block his nomination to serve as the Deputy Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. With the benefit of hindsight, I am glad my efforts to block his nomination were ultimately unsuccessful.’
“Mr. Ashdown went on to write, ‘As Deputy Secretary, Mayorkas worked in a bipartisan manner to respond to the Committee’s requests and concerns. Having been on the other side of this battle, I understand the importance of vetting a nominee thoroughly. But no one has been vetted more than has Ali Mayorkas.’ Mr. Ashdown concluded with these words: ‘I urge the U.S. Senate to expeditiously confirm Ali Mayorkas as DHS Secretary without delay. Sincerely, Keith Ashdown.’
“Let me close today, Mr. President, by saying that I’m grateful – and I know the Mayorkas family is grateful, as well – to Keith Ashdown and to the Republican senators who have broken ranks in committee and on last week’s cloture vote, who’ve taken the time to fully consider this nomination and who now support it. I sincerely hope that more of our colleagues will join them – and us – today. Colleagues, I don’t stake my reputation on a lot of people, but I’m more than willing to stake it on Ali Mayorkas, just as I have three times before in this chamber. If you’re undecided today, I hope you will join me this time, too. He will make us and this country proud. In fact, I believe he already has. Thank you. I yield the floor.”