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Siding With Obama On Deportations Hurts Saldana's Bipartisan Support
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Siding With Obama On Deportations Hurts Saldana's Bipartisan Support

Politics

Siding With Obama On Deportations Hurts Saldana's Bipartisan Support

Siding With Obama On Deportations Hurts Saldana's Bipartisan Support
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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/371126174/371126175" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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The Senate is to vote Tuesday on Sarah Saldana's nomination to run Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Republicans believe she will be too sympathetic to the president's actions on deportations.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It's only going to get harder for President Obama to push his nominees through the Senate. Republicans blocked enough of them in recent years that Senate Democrats altered the rules to make nominees easier to confirm.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

But in January, Republicans take the majority. Any nominee will need at least some bipartisan support, and Sarah Saldana has lost hers.

INSKEEP: People in both parties once supported the president's choice to lead Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Then the president took executive action on deportations, a move Saldana supported, so everything changed. NPR's Ailsa Chang reports.

AILSA CHANG, BYLINE: Back in September, the biggest selling point about Sarah Saldana was the delight she took in enforcing the law.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SARAH SALDANA: Even though I have 40 years of work experience, these years in the United States Attorneys office enforcing the rule of law in the great state of Texas have been the best years of my professional life.

CHANG: Sarah the enforcer was such a popular theme in her confirmation hearing, Republicans glowed about her, including the Senate's number-two Republican, John Cornyn of Texas.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SENATOR JOHN CORNYN: 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. Saldana.

CHANG: Three months later the glow has faded. Here's Cornyn now.

CORNYN: I think she's a wonderful person, but if she's going to be the one to implement the president's unconstitutional policy that's a serious problem.

CHANG: When the president announced he would shield from deportation millions of people living in the U.S. illegally, Saldana told senators she would support the new policy. One by one, Republicans withdrew their support.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Mr. Grassley?

SENATOR CHUCK GRASSLEY: No.

WOMAN: Mr. Hatch?

SENATOR ORRIN HATCH: No, by proxy.

WOMAN: Mr. Sessions?

SENATOR JEFF SESSIONS: No, by proxy.

WOMAN: Mr. Graham?

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: No, by proxy.

CHANG: Republicans understand they're asking for a presidential nominee to basically repudiate the president's policy. It's not going to happen, but Republicans say at the very least the Senate should have waited until next year to consider this nomination. Of course that's because there's little chance Saldana would ever get confirmed in a Republican-controlled Senate, to which Democrat Dick Durbin of Illinois asks, don't Republicans want someone in charge of stopping illegal immigration?

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SENATOR DICK DURBIN: How many speeches have we heard on the floor of the Senate that the number-one priority of the Republican side is border enforcement?

CHANG: It's been a year and a half since Immigration and Customs Enforcement has had a permanent director. And it's the second-largest criminal investigative agency in the federal government after the FBI. The agency is struggling with substantial morale problems, and that's why Edward Alden of the Council on Foreign Relations says getting through the Senate is the least of Saldana's problems.

EDWARD ALDEN: I think it's probably fair to say that there's no more difficult job in the administration right now.

CHANG: Alden points out Saldana will be caught between a White House pushing very precise criteria for deportation and front-line officers, many of whom are frustrated with the president's policies.

ALDEN: They think they're being given inconsistent, conflicting, changing instructions from Washington that make it very difficult for them to carry out their jobs on a day-to-day basis.

CHANG: And it will be up to Saldana to convince every level of the agency that enforcing the law now means something just a little bit different. Ailsa Chang, NPR News, the Capitol.

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