In almost a straight party-line vote, the Senate confirmed Sarah Saldana’s appointment to the head of ICE today, making her the first Latina to hold the position. The vote was 55-39, with only Tom Coburn (R-OK) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) being the only Republicans to vote in her favor.
Saldana is currently the US Attorney for the Northern District of Texas. As ICE Director, she will be responsible for executing one of President Obama’s administrative actions — refocusing immigration enforcement priorities.
Earlier this year, Saldana appeared to be on a straight track to confirmation. Her home-state senator, Republican John Cornyn, “spoke glowingly” about her credentials at a September confirmation hearing, saying that she had a “reputation for her decisive and fair temperament and her commitment to excellence.”
“If respect for the rule of law is our standard, and I think it should be, we would be hard-pressed to find a person more qualified to enforce the law than Ms. Saldaña,” he said according to the Washington Post.
But after President Obama announced his executive action, Saldana said that she supported his move — and even pro-immigration reform Republicans like Jeff Flake and Lindsey Graham have pulled their support. Jeff Sessions claimed that Saldana’s stance on executive action “reflects a remarkable disregard for the rule of law” and Mike Lee worried that “her commitment to the rule of law may falter.”
But Democrats have come to her defense. As Sen. Bob Menendez said this week:
We cannot judge the qualifications of Sarah Saldaña to run Immigration and Customs Enforcement based solely on the fact that she agrees with the policy decisions of the President who nominated her. That is an absurd and completely illogical standard.