HAVANA TIMES – Alejandro Mayorkas Gabor, the next Secretary of the US Department of Homeland Security, the national security agency that was created after the 9/11 attacks in 2001, will become the first Latino and son of immigrants to hold this position, Reuters news agency reports.
Mayorkas, 60, is a former federal prosecutor born in Havana, Cuba. He was the director of US Citizenship and Immigration Services and then the Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security during the Barack Obama administration. He was one of the main candidates for current US president Joe Biden’s cabinet. Mayorkas was a key player in the rapprochement process between the US and Cuba that began in 2014. This was then partially dismantled by Donald Trump in 2017.
According to The Washington Post, “he is not a liberal activist, but he brings a deep sympathy for immigrants rooted in his own family’s extraordinary journey to the United States.”
His family fled Europe
The family fled Romania and headed to France when Nazism reared its ugly head, and then they finally moved to Cuba. His paternal grandparents and seven aunts and uncles died during the Holocaust. Seeking asylum in the US wasn’t an option: in 1939, the US government turned away the St. Louis, a ship transporting over 900 Jewish refugees, forcing them to go back to Europe. Over 250 onboard perished, many of them in Nazi extermination camps.
Cuba had also turned away the St. Louis, but the Gabors were able to emigrate there soon afterwards, when restrictions were cut back. Described as a brilliant and warm woman who spoke five languages, Anita Gabor met Charles R. “Nicky” Mayorkas at a party in Havana. Both were Jews and only children.
The couple had a daughter, Cathy, in 1957, and Alejandro was born in 1959, the same year that Fidel Castro came into power. They soon fled with much of Cuba’s middle and upper classes.
Nicky and Anita moved to Miami with their two children. They arrived on a tourist visa on August 21, 1960. Anita’s parents, Michael and Charlotte Gabor, followed them a month later.
Hundreds of thousands of Cuban refugees settled in the tropical south of Florida, just 160 kms from the island which they had fled. However, the Mayorkas headed for southern California, where one of Nicky’s cousins on his mother’s side had offered him a job as an accountant at a textile factory.
Beverly Hills before it became famous
The Mayorkas family rented an apartment in a then working-class neighborhood spattered with palm trees and sycamores, with lots of Jewish families living there, most of whom were liberals: Beverly Hills.
All of them held down two or three jobs so that their children could go to some of the best schools in the country. But that neighborhood was still far from the showy stereotype that then became popularized on different TV shows.
Later, they bought a modest house with a Spanish tiled roof and a lawn with a mailbox. People described the neighborhood as an “immigrant population totally focused on education.”
Mayorkas graduated with honors from the University of California in Berkeley, and then from the Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. Four years later, he began working at the US Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles, one of the largest districts in the Department of Justice.
After a long and outstanding career as a private lawyer, he began his career as a public servant when he became a federal prosecutor in California, in 1998. He specialized in financial fraud, corruption, money laundering and cyber-crime, among other crimes.
President Bill Clinton nominated Mayorkas to be a US Attorney, a promotion that is pretty much unheard of within the ranks, raising his profile on the national scene. Los Angeles Magazine nicknamed him the “executor” in a feature they did in 2000. The article also outlined a hard line between Mayorkas and former US prosecutor Rudolph W. Giuliani, from New York, who is now one of Trump’s personal lawyers.
He currently lives in Washington DC with his wife and three daughters.