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Saldaña confirmed to head ICE

16 Dec

WASHINGTON — The Senate voted Tuesday to confirm Dallas-based U.S. attorney Sarah Saldaña to head Immigration and Customs Enforcement, making her the first Latina to oversee enforcement of the nation’s immigration laws.

The 55-39 vote reflected the objections of Texas Sens. John Cornyn, Ted Cruz, and other Republicans angered over President Obama’s recent executive action delaying deportations of roughly 5 million undocumented immigrants.

Obama called Saldaña “the right person to lead the dedicated men and women at ICE in securing our borders, keeping American communities safe, and upholding our values.”

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus issued a statement praising Saldaña for “breaking new ground.”

Until the president’s action on immigration last month, Saldaña, the state’s first Hispanic U.S. attorney, had enjoyed bipartisan support both in Texas and Washington.

When she was confirmed in 2011 as the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas, she got the strong backing of both Cornyn and then-Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.

In a floor speech Tuesday, Cornyn called Saldaña “a person of courage and conviction,” noting that she had presided over the prosecution of former Dallas Mayor Pro Tem Don Hill for corruption.

“Unfortunately, the president changed everything this last November by his executive order by his executive actions on immigration,” Cornyn said. “When confirmed, she will be the principal enforcer of our immigration laws, and unfortunately, she now claims that the president was operating within his legal authority to issue this executive action.”

Under Senate rules, her confirmation required only a simple majority, giving Republicans little hope of blocking her.
In the end, Democrats said Saldaña owed her confirmation in part to Cruz. His unsuccessful weekend gambit to block Obama’s executive action, they argued, created an opening to vote on a raft of stalled presidential nominations.

Cruz disputed that account Tuesday, accusing Democrats of causing the delay by denying his request for a direct vote defunding Obama’s executive “amnesty” as part of an annual spending bill.

Writing in an editorial published Tuesday in Politico, Cruz said Saldaña “has pledged to uphold Obama’s amnesty.”

Cornyn said that while he admires Saldaña, the administration had put her in the “untenable position” of either disagreeing with the president or fully embracing his immigration policies.

Saldaña will report to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, who praised her commitment to “supporting those that enforce our laws, protect the homeland, and promote public safety.”