Just three days after Michael Brown resigned as head of Federal Emergency Management Administration because of the botched response to Hurricane Katrina, the Senate held a hearing for another unqualified nominee for a vital position in the Department of Homeland Security. The president’s supporters can look forward to serving in his administration, but certain key jobs ought to be reserved for candidates whose personal connections don’t outweigh their professional qualifications.
Julie L. Myers has been nominated by the White House to lead U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a vast bureau with more than 20,000 employees and a budget of $4 billion. As head of ICE, Myers would be in charge of detaining and removing illegal aliens; investigating alien smuggling, illegal arms exports, and money laundering; fining the employers of illegal aliens (well, actually they don’t bother with that any more); plus many, many other responsibilities. She would be the officer chiefly responsible for protecting the nation against terrorist threats once they have succeeded in infiltrating our borders, which are guarded by a different bureaucracy. Her most relevant previous experience was managing only 170 employees and a $25 million budget while at the Commerce department.
Given the importance of the position and a history of mismanagement in the immigration service, Congress took the unusual step of inserting a statutory requirement that nominees have a minimum of five years of experience in both management and law enforcement. Even a cursory reading of her resume reveals that the well-connected 36-year-old attorney’s background fails to comply with this legal requirement; in fact, she meets the bare minimum only by counting her current stint in White House Personnel, where she manages, by her own account, “up to three deputies as well as support staff and interns.”
It’s not entirely fair to compare Myers to Brown. Managing horse shows had no connection to the work of FEMA, whereas Myers’s experience at the departments of Justice, Commerce, and Treasury does bear on some of the work of ICE. In a future Republican administration, after she has acquired more experience, she might be an outstanding choice for this job. But naming her at this stage in her career, especially given her connections, smacks of cronyism.
Her nomination highlights the administration’s desire to keep immigration enforcement on a short leash, lest some rogue official embarrass the White House by actually enforcing the immigration law. It exposes the administration to yet another Michael Brown fiasco if, as is eventually likely, a terrorist eludes the demoralized immigration agents at ICE on his way to killing Americans.
Columnist and blogger Michelle Malkin has suggested a much better pick for the ICE job: Peter Nuñez — Navy veteran, Reagan-era U.S. Attorney in San Diego, and Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Enforcement during the first Bush administration. His views on immigration are more in line with those of NR than the White House, but this should actually be an additional selling point: By selecting Nuñez as the nation’s top immigration-enforcement officer, the president would have much more credibility with Congress and the public in trying to sell his immigration proposals.
The response of House Republicans to any talk of new immigration programs has been “Enforcement First.” Replacing Myers with a more suitable candidate would signal that the White House takes these concerns seriously. Obstinately sticking to the nomination would send the opposite message.