Washington — If confirmed by the Senate, Xavier Becerra, the son of working-class Mexican immigrants, will take cost of the nationwide response to a public well being disaster that has killed 50,000 Latinos up to now. And Alejandro Mayorkas, the son of Cuban refugees, shall be tackling the rebuilding of a refugee program decimated by President Trump.
In tapping Becerra and Mayorkas to lead the departments of Health and Human Services and Homeland Security, respectively, President-elect Joe Biden is tasking two Latinos with containing COVID-19 and dismantling Mr. Trump’s hard-line immigration insurance policies — main points that have harmed many Latino and immigrant households.
Nathalie Reyes, president of the Latino Victory Project, a liberal group pushing to elect extra Hispanics to public workplace, mentioned selecting Becerra and Mayorkas “signifies that the Biden administration will work diligently early on to reverse the damaging course set in movement by the Trump administration.”
Representative Joaquin Castro, a Democrat of Texas and chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, added, “To be the most effective policymaker, you actually have to have your pulse on what peculiar individuals are going by way of in this nation — particularly at a time like this. Xavier and Alejandro are two individuals who perceive that.”
Last week, in a gathering with high Biden transition officers, Castro and different caucus members pushed for a Latino to lead the well being division — not solely make historical past, but in addition to sign to the nation’s largest minority group that the brand new president understands the disproportionate impression the pandemic is having on Latinos nationwide.
Caucus members had in thoughts New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham. She’s a former state well being director, a former member of Congress and at the moment the nation’s solely Latina governor. For lawyer normal, they backed Becerra, one other former member of Congress, or Tom Perez, the outgoing Democratic National Committee chairman.
Either approach, two members in the assembly recalled that the lawmakers informed Biden transition aides they wished to see a Latino in a minimum of one of the “Big Four” cupboard positions atop a minimum of one of the departments of State, Treasury, Defense or Justice.
But Ron Klain, who shall be Mr. Biden’s White House chief of workers, argued that there’s actually a “Big Six” — State, Treasury, Defense, Justice, plus Homeland Security and Health and Human Services, members mentioned.
By that measure, the Hispanic Caucus and different Latino teams are succeeding, given Mayorkas and Becerra’s choice.
But a number of nationwide Latino organizations are pushing for a minimum of 5 Latinos in the Biden Cabinet, which might be a file excessive initially of a brand new administration. As Mr. Biden continues to mull a possible agriculture secretary, Latino leaders are pushing for Arturo Rodríguez, the previous president of the United Farm Workers.
The Hispanic Caucus is now focusing particularly on guaranteeing that a Hispanic lady has a spot on Mr. Biden’s cupboard, ideally in a role aside from labor secretary or head of the Small Business Administration, the one cabinet-level positions ever held by Latinas.
“It could be very disappointing to have a cupboard with out a Latina,” Castro mentioned.
Representative Filemon Vela, Democrat of Texas and one of Mr. Biden’s earliest congressional supporters in 2020, is happy with Mr. Biden’s picks up to now. With roughly 40 million Americans in the U.S., “I feel it was vital for us to remind folks how vital it was to have an American of Mexican descent in a high Cabinet management place,” he mentioned. “I feel as issues turned out, given Becerra’s background, they knew precisely who one of the suitable folks to lead the company was going to be.”
“The proper particular person on the proper time”
If they’re confirmed, Mayorkas would lead a sprawling division tasked with myriad obligations, together with airport and border safety and immigration coverage, whereas Becerra, a former congressman, would oversee a roughly $1-trillion division with about 80,000 staff accountable for all points of public well being — together with oversight of the Affordable Care Act.
León Rodríguez, a former director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, is glad to see two Latinos with notable authorities expertise in cost with the seismic shifts in coverage that shall be getting underway in January.
“Part of it’s the symbolism, however half of it’s also the fact of placing competent, conscientious folks in cost of these agencies that are vital to the well-being of Americans and returning to professionalism in governance,” he mentioned.
Mayorkas and his household left Cuba in 1960 after Fidel Castro’s communist revolutionaries toppled the U.S.-aligned authoritarian authorities of Fulgencio Batista. Nearly two many years earlier, his mom, a Romanian Jew, had fled because the Nazis occupied France.
After Mr. Biden introduced his nomination, Mayorkas pledged to shield “all Americans,” in addition to these “who flee persecution in search of a greater life,” a profound departure from the Trump administration’s view on refugees and asylum-seekers. Mr. Biden has vowed to set a 125,000 refugee cap throughout his first yr in workplace, a greater than eightfold improve from the historic low of 15,000 allowed by Mr. Trump, who has portrayed refugees as financial and safety dangers.
Mayorkas is a former U.S. lawyer who has jumped in and out of federal service for the reason that late Nineteen Nineties. He re-entered the federal authorities in 2009 after President Obama selected him to be his first director of USCIS.
As head of the immigration companies company, he was one of the architects of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiative designed to defend younger undocumented immigrants often called “dreamers” from deportation. In 2013, Mayorkas was promoted to deputy DHS secretary and oversaw the division’s efforts to include the Zika and Ebola outbreaks.
Rodríguez, who succeeded Mayorkas as USCIS director, appreciates the symbolism of Mayorkas’ nomination, given that he would oversee USCIS, the Transportation Security Agency, Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Coast Guard that all cope with immigrants and guests.
“Having anyone who has that immigrant expertise and who has that cross-cultural perspective, particularly after what we have skilled in the final 4 years, I feel he is completely the suitable particular person on the proper time,” he mentioned.
Becerra is a former state assemblyman who went on to serve 12 phrases in the U.S. House of Representatives. Biden aides famous Monday that as a lawmaker, Becerra had a particular understanding of what the Affordable Care Act might do to assist uninsured Americans. In the years for the reason that regulation’s implementation, he is seen the speed of uninsured residents of his former Los Angeles congressional district lower in half.
He left Capitol Hill in 2017 because the highest-ranking Latino in the House after being chosen to succeed Kamala Harris as California’s lawyer normal. Becerra rapidly grew to become one of the main authorized opponents of the Trump administration, submitting lawsuits towards its makes an attempt to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, to lower federal funding for so-called “sanctuary” jurisdictions and to roll again DACA.
If confirmed, Becerra would additionally oversee the Office of Refugee Resettlement, the company charged with caring for migrant kids apprehended by border officers with out their dad and mom or authorized guardians.
With two Hispanic males now in the Biden Cabinet, consideration is popping towards the seek for Latinas for cabinet-level roles.
Depending on how high positions are counted, there’ve been roughly 20 Latino cupboard secretaries or administrators of cabinet-level agencies in the previous 30 years — however solely 4 girls. Three of these girls ran the Small Business Administration: Aida Alvarez for President Bill Clinton, Jovita Carranza for Mr. Trump and Maria Contreras-Sweet for Mr. Obama. Hilda Solis served as Mr. Obama’s first labor secretary.
Many Hispanic caucus members are supporting Lily Eskelen Garcia, the previous president of the National Education Association, for schooling secretary. A former trainer, she’d assist fulfill Mr. Biden’s vow to appoint a public faculty trainer to lead the Education Department.
Other names in the combo, in accordance to Latino activists monitoring the nominations course of, embody Rosa Gumataotao Rios, the previous Treasurer of the United States, whose signature seems on American forex, for varied financial roles; Stacie Olivares-Castain, a California public pensions official, to function commerce secretary; and outgoing Representatives Debbie Murcasel Powell, Democrat of Florida, and Xochitl Torres Small, Democrat of New Mexico, to fill varied roles.
The Hispanic Caucus is asking constituents, present and former aides and officers again house for different potential picks. “One factor I’ve discovered in this course of is that it is vital to current the transition staff with tons of choices for his or her selections,” Vela mentioned.
Congressman Lou Correa, a Blue Dog Democrat from Orange County, California, praised Mayorkas’ and Becerra’s experience and took observe of the emotional resonance of their nominations for Latinos.
“To have folks in the administration who seem like you is a psychological booster,” he mentioned. “It’s the group saying, ‘Yes, we’re Americans and we’re lastly being acknowledged.'”