“Do I think he’s more left of center than I would like? Yes,” Mr. Sweet said, adding, “There’s no question he’s qualified for the job, period.”
Rand Beers, a former acting secretary of homeland security in the Obama administration, said Mr. Biden’s pick made it clear that while immigration would be an early focus for the department, the new administration would also bolster its other responsibilities, such as cybersecurity and natural disasters.
Mr. Beers said Mr. Mayorkas balanced a vigilance of security threats with an interest in helping immigrants in need, pointing to his work vetting visa applications for Iraqis who assisted the U.S. military. Mr. Beers said Mr. Mayorkas pushed his teams to undergo exhaustive reviews of intelligence reports to scout for communications between applicants and suspected terrorists.
“He basically took that seriously and said we can’t ignore these reports but we also can’t assume the level of contact,” Mr. Beers said. “He’s thoughtful, he’s analytical and he’s humane.”
At the Homeland Security Department, Mr. Mayorkas led the agency’s response to the Ebola and Zika outbreaks, experience extremely relevant to this moment, the Biden transition team said on Monday. As homeland security secretary, Mr. Mayorkas would oversee the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which has played a prime role in helping state governments combat the coronavirus pandemic.
“He has seen all effects of Covid-19 in all segments of the economy and affecting all kinds of people, and he has been immersed in this for months,” said Jamie Gorelick, a partner at his law firm, WilmerHale, and former deputy attorney general in the Clinton administration. Ms. Gorelick tapped Mr. Mayorkas to lead the law firm’s coronavirus task force for clients.
Mr. Mayorkas has also been paying close attention to Mr. Trump’s efforts to overhaul the immigration system, Ms. Gorelick said.