Alejandro Mayorkas. (Photo credit: Reuters/Amir Cohen)

BROWNSVILLE, TEXAS – Cameron County Judge and Texas Border Coalition Chairman Eddie Treviño, Jr., has welcomed President-Elect Joe Biden’s nomination of Alejandro Mayorkas for secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.

A Cuban-American, Mayorkas will be the first Latino to lead DHS, if confirmed by the U.S. Senate. He is also the first Latino chosen for Biden’s Cabinet. He is expected to drastically overhaul President Donald Trump’s hardline immigration policies.

During the Obama Administration, Mayorkas was deputy secretary of DHS under then-Secretary Jeh Johnson. Before that was the director of Citizenship and Immigration Services, a part of DHS that oversees granting citizenship and other immigration benefits.

Asked for his reaction to the nomination, Treviño told the Rio Grande Guardian: “Obviously we are hopeful we will have a more receptive administration with regard to border issues and border economic issues. I think we will.”

One of the first agenda items, if it has not happened when the Biden Administration takes office on Jan. 20, Treviño said, must be to re-open land ports of entry. They have been closed to “non-essential” travel since late March. Non-essential travel, according to the Trump Administration, include those crossing into the United States to shop, travel and stay with family. The bridges were closed to such travelers in order to stop the spread of COVID-19.

“The reopening of the ports of entry, our bridges, is critical and tantamount to the reopening of the border economy,” Treviño said. “We consider border trade to be essential travel and therefore we hope this administration along with the Department of Homeland Security will help us in that endeavor.”

Treviño said a new-look DHS should also emphasize technology rather than walls and fencing when it comes to border security.

“We hope this administration will spur the resources and investment in technological equipment. That is what our Border Patrol, and our Customs agents need. Let us not waste money on infrastructure that is not needed or is outdated or won’t be as productive as the investment in surveillance and up-to-date technological equipment and the resources and tools that our front line agents need and require. Let’s listen to them. Let’s listen to the needs they have,” Treviño said.

Treviño said there could be some instances where fencing makes sense. However, he should not be main method of deterring undocumented immigration.

“I do understand that in certain locations, perhaps certain infrastructure, a wall – I hate to use the word wall – or fencing, but those enforcement structures can be utilized. I don’t think there is a problem with that but just the continued advocacy for a border-wide wall from Brownsville to El Paso and into New Mexico was ill-conceived, not well-thought out, not well planned and was political in nature.”

Treviño added: “I hope we can get past the political part and focus on the practical part. I think that is much better for our border communities. And I am looking forward to an administration that looks at immigration as an asset and as a tool for economic development and for border security for the benefit of all of us.”

Congressional Hispanic Caucus

Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chairman Joaquin Castro released the following statement on Mayorkas’ nomination for DHS secretary:

“A dedicated public servant and Cuban immigrant, Alejandro Mayorkas is a fantastic choice to lead the Department of Homeland Security. After the cruelty and devastation wrought by the Trump administration, Mayorkas has a mandate to overhaul DHS. As the former Deputy Secretary of DHS and lead implementor of DACA, he has the necessary experience to bring about much needed reforms. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus looks forward to working with Alejandro Mayorkas to treat immigrants with dignity and respect.

“We welcome the historic nomination of Alejandro Mayorkas and will continue working with the Biden-Harris transition to ensure Latinos have equitable representation in the Cabinet. In particular, the CHC is urging President-Elect Biden to appoint five Latinos to his Cabinet and at least one Latino in the top four positions. We share the Biden-Harris transition team’s goal to create the most diverse administration in U.S. history.”

Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, the ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, issued this statement about the Mayorkas nomination:

Alejandro Mayorkas, a Cuban-American immigrant, is a smart and natural pick to lead the Department of Homeland Security.  He has the subject matter experience to take on the enormous job of cleaning up after the disastrous and inhumane immigration policies that have torn lives and families apart under the Trump Administration.  There is much work to be done in restoring the reputation and credibility of the Department and he is the right man for the job.

Editor’s Note: Click here to read NBC reporter Suzanne Gamboa’s story about the Mayorkas nomination. 

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