Despite giving what Senate Republicans said were troubling responses about President Obama’s executive actions on immigration, Sarah Saldaña was confirmed today to lead the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office.
The vote was 55-39, with six senators not voting. Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) cast the only “yea” votes from the GOP.
Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans complained that not only did Saldaña not meet with the lawmakers, but “didn’t even receive the courtesy of a reply” to their invitation. The committee passed the nomination on to the full Senate on a party-line vote.
Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) noted at the time that when he got the opportunity to ask Saldaña some questions he was met with “vague answers.”
“Many times she answered a question by telling me that she wasn’t familiar with a certain specific topic area and that, if confirmed, she’d look into it,” Grassley said.
Saldaña only received a full committee hearing in the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
“Immigration and Customs Enforcement has been without a presidentially appointed leader for more than 16 months – that is far too long, particularly considering the challenges we face along our borders,” said committee Chairman Tom Carper (D-Del.). “Sarah Saldaña will provide the leadership our country needs in this critically important and particularly challenging position. Ms. Saldaña is a respected member of the law enforcement community who comes highly recommended, with bipartisan support. Thankfully, Ms. Saldaña has graciously stepped up to the plate to assume this demanding appointment. She undoubtedly has a tough job ahead of her, but I believe that she is up to the task.”
President Obama said Saldaña, most recently U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas, “is the right person to lead the dedicated men and women at ICE in securing our borders, keeping American communities safe, and upholding our values.”
“Since I took office, illegal border crossings are down and removal of dangerous criminals is up,” he added in a statement. “I’m confident Sarah will help us build on this progress while protecting our country in a smart, effective, and humane way.”
Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), though, said on the floor today that while Saldaña demonstrated an “admirable independent streak as United States Attorney, she has also demonstrated that her commitment to the rule of law may falter when it comes to faithfully enforcing the Immigration and Nationality Act.”
“In response to a question asked by several members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, including me, Ms. Saldaña said she agreed with the position of DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson that immigrants who entered the country illegally, and have now been targeted for so-called deferred action, have ‘earned the right to be citizens,'” Lee said. “That’s quite a bold claim. No doubt Congress could, and many people think it should, ease the path the citizenship for some aliens here unlawfully. But to assert that citizenship is a matter of right, and that it has been earned by the very act of breaking our immigration laws, is an unacceptable view for a person nominated to be head of immigration enforcement.”
“We have passed through the looking glass. And to see how far we’ve gone inside, observe: Today the president asks the Senate to install, as custodian of our border, a person who evidently believes that crossing our border illegally earns you the right to vote.”