EXCLUSIVE: Former Obama and Bush-era homeland security secretaries on Tuesday urged the Senate to "swiftly" confirm Alejandro Mayorkas to lead DHS, saying "any further delays" will "hinder" the country’s ability to respond to national security risks.
Former DHS secretaries for former President George W. Bush, Tom Ridge and Michael Chertoff, and former DHS secretaries for former President Barack Obama, Janet Napolitano and Jeh Johnson, penned a letter Tuesday to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., urging them to "promptly consider and confirm" Biden’s nominee.
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"In the wake of the January 6th domestic terror attack on the Capitol—the symbol of our nation’s democracy—it is more urgent than ever to have in place an experienced, capable and Senate-confirmed leader," they wrote. "That person is Mayorkas."
The four former homeland security secretaries pointed out that in the past four years, DHS "has seen no fewer than six people — two Senate-confirmed, four acting — at the helm of the 24,000-person agency charged with protecting the American people and their homeland."
"It is time for a proven leader to right the ship," they wrote, adding that "any further delays" in confirming Mayorkas "only hinder our ability to respond to national security risks."
"We each know Mayorkas as a man of character, integrity, experience and compassion," they wrote, pointing to his background, having already been confirmed by the Senate three times for his previous role as deputy DHS secretary, his role leading U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and, earlier in his career, as a U.S. attorney.
Homeland Security Secretary nominee Alejandro Mayorkas testifies during his confirmation hearing in the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Bill Clark/Pool via AP)
"The president-elect could not have found a more qualified person to be the next homeland security secretary," they wrote. "Mayorkas needs no on-the-job training and will be prepared to lead DHS immediately."
The four former secretaries reflected on watching, from afar, the Trump administration, saying they did so "with dismay and alarm" as former President Trump "abused and misused the Cabinet department we once led."
"DHS should not be beholden to a president’s political agenda; it exists for the protection of the American people on land, at sea, in the air and in cyberspace," they wrote.
"The safety and security of our nation are dependent upon a fully functioning government that puts the American people first," they wrote. "Now, more than ever, it is imperative to move quickly. We urge the Senate to act swiftly to put Mayorkas in place."
They added: "It has been almost two years since DHS had a Senate-confirmed leader."
"We cannot afford to wait one more day," they wrote.
The letter comes after Mayorkas was voted out of the Senate Homeland Security Committee by 7-4, with Democrats and GOP Sens. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, and Rob Portman, R-Ohio, voting to advance the nomination.
If confirmed, Mayorkas would be the first immigrant to run the department if confirmed.
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He would enter into a department facing both the aftermath of the Jan. 6 riots in Washington, D.C., as well as implementing a new wave of immigration policy measures from President Biden, who has promised to undo much of President Donald Trump’s legacy in that area.
Biden has implemented a 100-day moratorium on deportations, ended the Trump-era travel bans and stopped construction of a border wall. He has also proposed an immigration bill that would grant legal status and a pathway to citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants.
The committee held a confirmation hearing for Mayorkas last week, but quick passage was delayed by Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., who cited Biden’s immigration plan as a reason for imposing the hurdle.
"On Day 1 of his administration, President-elect Biden has said he plans to unveil an amnesty plan for 11 million immigrants in this nation illegally," the populist senator said in a statement. "This comes at a time when millions of American citizens remain out of work and a new migrant caravan has been attempting to reach the United States. Mr. Mayorkas has not adequately explained how he will enforce federal law and secure the southern border given President-elect Biden’s promise to roll back major enforcement and security measures."
On Tuesday, other Republicans issued other objections to Mayorkas, which Chairman Ron Johnson, R-Wis., referenced something Republicans had raised concerns about during the committee hearing -- a 2015 inspector general report that found Mayorkas intervened to help foreign investors in the EB-5 visa program who were connected to top Democrats.
Fox News’ Adam Shaw and Evie Fordham contributed to this report.