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Immigration Services head: From Havana to Washington D.C.

Director Mayorkas, photo by USCIS
As the Director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), Alejandro Mayorkas oversees the world's largest immigration service. Mayorkas previously served as the U.S. Attorney for southern California where he supervised cases on public corruption, immigration, narcotics trafficking and money laundering. Mayorkas was born in Havana, Cuba and immigrated to the United States when he was one-year old.

As the USCIS Director, you oversee a workforce of nearly 18,000 people. What methods do you use to motivate your employees?

The people in our agency are motivated. The key for a leader is to tap [into] that sense of motivation and empower people to exercise the talents that they have developed over the years, and for those who come new to it, educate them on what a privilege it is to be a part of our agency.

What is motivating about working at USCIS is the mission that we have -- to fundamentally protect the dreams of people who come to this country in the hope of a better life. [It] also is pivotally tied to the definition of our nation as a nation of immigrants, and I think people find tremendous motivation in that.

How do you stay connected with USCIS' large, distributed workforce?

That's a question, frankly, that I'm in the process of answering. I'm trying different things, and I've been very assertive in my outreach. I have traveled the country to visit offices. I think that there is no substitute for person-to-person contact. I have held what I call town-hall meetings where I'm live by video and telephone with my workforce throughout the country and take questions. The town halls are opportunities for conversation, questions and answers, expression of issues, and an opportunity to share my thoughts with my colleagues.

What are your biggest day-to-day challenges on the management front and how are you overcoming them?

I have developed far-reaching and broad goals, and it is a challenge to keep focus on those goals because the issues that arise on a day-to-day basis are very significant and can swallow one's time. Being able to maintain that focus on the future as well as ensuring that the present builds the future is a difficult balance.

The ability to delegate many of the day-to-day challenges is instrumental in keeping focus. I'm a very hands-on person, and I want to communicate to those around me [about] how I approach issues, prioritize things, the values that I bring. So when they call upon me for support and assistance and when I call upon them for the same, we come to a place where we all have a united vision for our agency.

How do you apply your knowledge and legal experience to your tenure as the USCIS Director?

I'm dealing with a subject matter and administrating a complex set of laws and my ability to understand the laws that we are tasked to administer, both their spirit and their letter, I think is made more facile by reason of my legal education and experience. I think more broadly, and I think this speaks to leadership generally.

As a lawyer, and especially as a federal prosecutor, I learned to address complex sets of facts and most importantly make decisions, sometimes quickly especially in the crucible of the courtroom. I think that skill set serves me well in the agency.

How has your background as a Cuban immigrant affected you as a leader?

I understand deeply the experience of the people who come before us. I speak therefore not just with passion but I think with standing, and I share those sensitivities with my colleagues.

By Tom Fox

 |  July 21, 2010; 6:02 AM ET |  Category:  View from the Top Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Illegal violations have become legal laws as legal legislation has become lost lies. A legal limbo became a dream come true to a $4.2 million compensation to the loved ones of illegal immigrants who were hired to work the WTC clean up, health monitored every two weeks and their deaths directly related to the WTC dust. Allowed to stay as legal citizens, could not legally invest their $4.2 million and this legal limbo was worked out between the federal government and lawyers representing those illegal immigrants all in return for their legal real identity. However, as a widow of a Vietnam Veteran, Federal Police Officer, detailed to the WTC clean up by the federal government and no health monitoring, no worker's compensation and no records available as I must provide a picture at the Ground Zero site.

Told to hire a lawyer by a DHS lieutenant, promised lies and a "can/will do" attitude. Going through this policital lunacy for those WTC responders' legacy has become a nightmare for a legal American citizen but the federal government makes dreams come true for illegal immigrants. Now is something wrong with this picture or just insulting our intelligence?

Posted by: ranlin | July 26, 2010 8:15 PM

Alejandro Mayorkas' interview was an open-book quiz to satisfy enemies of the former US middle class.

It was just a few weeks ago when "The Washington Post" reported that Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Alan D. Bersin said Thursday he didn't know he's required by law to file paperwork verifying that his household employees were authorized to work in the United States.

".....According to a memo by the Senate Finance Committee, Bersin has employed 10 household employees since 1993 and failed to complete I-9 forms for all of them. The I-9 form is issued by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which shares immigration enforcement responsibilities with CBP and Immigration and Customs Enforcement."


So, as long as Obama has the Commissioner + the Director are so unaware that non-resident, non-citizens are in the US illegally, expect some horrendous reactions from US citizens who daily see the hard-earned benefits of the US middle class freely handed away by this Administration.

And, don't manipulate this issue into some anti-Hispanic purge. Research indicates the greatest numbers of undocumented workers are those persons admitted legally through some kind of visa program and simply failed to leave @ the end of their visa terms.

Look to Congress for the abuses of H-1(a) + H2(b) because the corporate employers who coincidentally are large election campaign donors who need to be incarcerated.


No immigration "reform" w/o significant deportation + the costs involved in the deportation needs to be deducted from the foreign aid allotment to the countries of origin.

Posted by: marynichols696 | July 23, 2010 8:24 PM

Protecting dreams is nobodies basic job. Upholding the law is a USCIS necessity and the knowledge that EVERYONE wants to "live a better life" is a simple fact.
One thing puzzles me. If we are all immigrants, why are the recent immigrants the only ones who receive all the financial assistance and "rights", while immigrants who have lived here 100 years get the shaft? Someone explain.

Posted by: drzimmern1 | July 23, 2010 7:11 PM

I hope someone from the Post or other news outlet will investigate what USCIS actually does. Unfortunately, despite the nice words of the head of the agency, this agency does not 'protect the country' as much as it protects its own bureaucracy. This is a faceless, lacking in accountability agency that charges large fees (thousands), does its best to keep legal immigrants out and provides very little service. I and thousands of others know. I married a woman from another country and it is taking years and repetitive paperwork and we've only just begun. The State Dept and USCIS do not coordinate, we have had to pay more than once for fingerprints, medical reports, etc. all duplicates. Make no mistake, I support President Obama and his goals but this agency needs serious reform and accountability. Imagine trying to buy a house and you are not allowed to talk to the bank. It's dysfunctional.

Posted by: uscis | July 23, 2010 2:13 PM

what with this what about our dream were far past needing attention wehave giving the forgeiner everything when the real citzens have lost everything no one see the people dont want ilegal here dream what about our dreams for home jobs a safty we have lost that since 911 now this what more do we have to give mexicoan a dream noway they get money schiling we have to pay for stop this amercan well nature citzen letthem do it legal stop the crossing the borders and blaming us for there problem give our dreams first no mexican there to many deport

Posted by: kathy02001 | July 23, 2010 12:42 PM

This guy is just another cog in a broken machine. I, as I am sure most other lawful citizens and immigrants are sick and tired of hearing the crap that is coming out of Washington and the constatnt word-smithing and spin put on everything that has to do with illegals coming across our borders. What he doesn't say speaks louder than what he does say, and that goes for Obama as well. "What is motivating about working at USCIS is the mission that we have -- to fundamentally protect the dreams of people who come to this country in the hope of a better life." He doesn't say anything about the protecting the dreams of legal immigrants. He would protect and harbor everything illegal without regard to our laws. He goes on to say the really tired rehtoric "It also is pivotally tied to the definition of our nation as a nation of immigrants, and I think people find tremendous motivation in that." What a warm fuzzy. The only people that find motivation in that are the ones that want to get here, legally or illegaly. We should have little problem with the legal immigrants who go through the established lawful process for immigration and citizenship. Those are the dreams that have standing and need to be protected. The illegals have no standing or entitlements and should receive none. Mr. Mayorkas and his boss Obama need to get straight. As for Obama, they are illegal aliens, not undocumented immigrants.

Posted by: garypierce1 | July 23, 2010 11:53 AM

It has become very disturbing to the general population that the focus is on the rights of the illegal ailians.These seem to be taking presedence over the rights of the native and legalizwd U.S. citizens, For one I am an american born Native of three tribes and one quarter Austrian Imigrant. All of which are legal . Read , write . speak and pay taxes in English. The old addage of "Divide and conquer " Has very well put the U.S. at bay to its own undoing.It is mis-leading to put the rights of foreigners above the Neglicted rights of The U.S. Citizens. whatb next ?? are you going to give them control of our government too???It is going around that if things do not start to turn around to the respect and rights of the citizens there might be another civil WAR. and this would bevey ugly.Respectfully said.

Posted by: grumpypa10 | July 23, 2010 11:01 AM

What do you expect from a government official?

Posted by: grandaddy_g | July 23, 2010 9:29 AM

Talk about a "softball" interview! Where are the hardball questions on immigration? What is his stand on the so-called "immigration reform" (basically rewarding lawbreakers)? Does he believe in our present immigration laws and does he intend to enforce them?

Sugar coated interview with no actual content whatsoever.

Posted by: Utahreb | July 22, 2010 7:00 PM

NO AMNESTY and do your job and that means only help people here legally.

Posted by: PennyWisetheClown | July 22, 2010 12:10 PM

I'm thrilled that he's fundamentally protecting the dreams of people who come to this country in the hope of a better life, but what he doesn't say is that his agency is experiencing a tremendous growth in complaints and MSPB suits because he allows managers to run roughshod over the rank and file of this agency. Then they attempt to avoid any legitimate means of resolution, instead opting for continued delay tactics designed to discourage grievants. Management is so ill suited for the roles they play, the agency is in a state of flux that they won't be able to recover from easily. The workforce is motivated alright - motivated to move out of USCIS as quickly as they can find new jobs. Misuse of the FCIP program, misuse of re-employed annuitant authorities are just tips of the iceberg. So, I'm thrilled that peoples dreams are protected, but what is he doing to protect the dreams of people who work at that agency -

Posted by: popcorn1163 | July 22, 2010 11:17 AM

Please direct me to the agency whose mission is to fundamentally protect the dreams of American citizens!

Posted by: wmpowellfan | July 22, 2010 4:48 AM

To "fundamentally protect the dreams of people who come to this country "LEGALLY" in the hope of a better life. [It] also is pivotally tied to the definition of our nation as a nation of "LAWFULLY AND LEGALLY ADMITTED" immigrants, and I think people find tremendous motivation in that".

NO AMNESTY AND YOU SHOULD PROTECT THE RIGHTS OF LEGAL IMMIGRANTS AND CITIZENS ONLY.

Posted by: rolandalmazan | July 22, 2010 12:23 AM

Might as well have posted his resume' and let it go at that. "Fine fellow. Proud to have him aboard. Will do a fine job" . Some interesting questions posted in the comments. Second go, anyone??

Posted by: johnk8601 | July 21, 2010 8:46 PM

In my opinion, this article is a public relations piece oriented we the people to the office holder not dicuss politics, policies, or the effectiveness (or not) of his department's programs. The generalness of the questions and his statements were not intended to elicit opinions necessarily. Based on the comments people were looking for something the article did not intend but does prove that the subject of immigration is a topic of great concern. I hope - in the future - there is an article that we can dig our teeth into.

Posted by: OpinionME | July 21, 2010 3:12 PM

What a bunch of legal mumbo jumbo. The title of the article says it all -

"Protecting the dreams of people who come to this country"

When the title should be:

Protecting the dreams of people who come to this country LEGALLY.

We are a nation of laws. USCIS should not be in the business of protecting law breakers in exchange for their future vote.

Posted by: dcharlson | July 21, 2010 12:23 PM

When I started reading this article, I thought it was a joke, and apparently it is a joke. A joke on us, citizens of this country! I cannot believe the biases answers Mr. Mayorkas gave to the questions. No wonder we are being invaded. Immigration needs to be controlled otherwise it becomes an invasion. We apply this principle with private and state owned lands, why should it be different when it comes to the summation of all lands, which comprises the country called USA? What we have here is a flat out case of putting the Wolf in charge of the Han-house. No wonder the Illegal immigrants are confident on demanding Amnesty and Immigration reform. Citizens, exercise your vote rights and demand better service from our government.

Posted by: ATLAmerican | July 21, 2010 11:42 AM

Beyond "protecting the dreams of people who come to this country", what exactly does he and his 18,000 member workforce do? Do they in anyway help to preserve and protect the dreams, the resources, the environment and the security of those who are legal residents, (citizens or legal immigrants)? What are we getting or not getting for this very expensive operation?

Posted by: Lilycat11 | July 21, 2010 11:02 AM

And the point of this article is what? Did it address the thousands of illegals crossing the border and destroying the Federal and State lands of Arizona? Did it address the drug cartels targeting the police forces? Did it address securing the borders so that those immigrate legally can be protected from those who break our laws to enter this country?

Did it address the lies told by the left that Americans won't work the jobs that the illegal workers do - when construction jobs, broadband laying jobs are taken up by illegals in every state of the union?

What a pointless article and a what a waste of time in an era when Americans, both native born and naturalized are asking for secure borders.

Way to go.

Posted by: LMW6 | July 21, 2010 10:40 AM

Our Federal government is knowingly allowing illegal immigrants (and probably numerous terrorists) to flood into our country. Are we insane? This guy - and his higher up bosses - should all be fired or voted out of office. Go, Arizona! At least, that state's leaders want to protect its citizens. Oh...adios amigos!

Posted by: sero11 | July 21, 2010 10:22 AM

You forgot to ask how it was when he lobbied President Clinton for the pardon of a drug dealer whose father had donated a quarter of a million dollars to California politicians!

Posted by: Govt | July 21, 2010 10:01 AM

You say "to fundamentally protect the dreams of people who come to this country in the hope of a better life" -- what about protecting the rights of actual citizens of this coutnry? Did you or did you not take an oath to uphold the laws of this country? Not the just the ones you think are ok but ALL of them? When do you take that in to consideration?

Posted by: mmartin3 | July 21, 2010 9:48 AM

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