Senate OKs Myers for Immigration Job
By EILEEN SULLIVAN
The Associated Press
Thursday, December 20, 2007; 12:01 AM
WASHINGTON — The Senate on Wednesday confirmed Julie L. Myers as director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, two years after President Bush appointed her to the position amid questions about her qualifications to lead the government's second-largest law enforcement agency.
Myers was among more than 30 people whose appointments were approved by a voice vote of the Senate as it concluded its session.
Bush had used a recess appointment in 2005 to put Myers, then 36, in charge of ICE, the branch of the Homeland Security Department that enforces immigration laws, when the Senate appeared unlikely to confirm her. Although she was a former Treasury official and assistant U.S. attorney, lawmakers debated whether she had enough experience to lead the agency.
Critics also noted her personal connections within the Bush administration. She was engaged _ and is now married _ to John F. Wood, who was chief of staff to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and is now the U.S. attorney in Kansas City, Mo. Ret. Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is her uncle.
Myers herself was Chertoff's chief of staff when he led the Justice Department's criminal division. However, her appointment in 2005 came after Hurricane Katrina, which brought criticism over the experience of those handling the federal response to the disaster.
Her appointment ran into trouble again this fall when she gave the “most original” costume award to a white employee who came to the agency's Halloween party dressed as an escaped prisoner with dreadlocks and darkened skin. The incident drew complaints of racial insensitivity and elicited an apology from Myers.
Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., the Senate's most vocal opponent of Myers' permanent appointment as head of ICE, placed a hold on her nomination after the Halloween incident. The senator's spokeswoman, Adrianne Marsh, said McCaskill “still believes Julie Myers isn't focused enough on employer enforcement and she's not the right pick, but there simply were not enough votes to oppose her nomination.”
Homeland Security spokesman Russ Knocke said the Senate's approval validates Myers' hard work and accomplishments.
ICE was formed after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks when parts of the Immigration and Naturalization Service and Customs agencies were merged.
Associated Press writer Sam Hananel contributed to this report.