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Connections still count


Published: Fri, September 23, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.


Miami Herald: Even in the surreal world of Washington politics, this is hard to believe: A Senate committee could approve a person with virtually no law-enforcement or immigration experience to head the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency, one of the most troubled and critical agencies on the front lines of national security.
Qualifications, professionalism and a solid track record should be the key factors in filling such a top government job -- not political connections. Julie L. Myers, a lawyer who has held numerous staff jobs at the White House and Justice, Customs and Treasury Departments, is not qualified to lead ICE, a branch of the Department of Homeland Security.
Myers, 36, briefly worked for DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff when he was at Justice, is married to Chertoff's current chief of staff and is the niece of Gen. Richard B. Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of staff. Those are nice associations to have, but they aren't qualifications for a job requiring an ability to protect our country from terrorists, drug-traffickers and others wishing us harm.
Remember Michael Brown
Lawmakers and President Bush, who nominated Myers for the ICE job in June, should take a cue from the Michael Brown fiasco. A political appointee with insider connections, Brown resigned as the FEMA chief after his inexperience and lack of qualifications became all too clear in the bungled response to Hurricane Katrina. The same mistakes should not be courted with ICE, the agency tasked with keeping terrorists from entering or staying in the country.
ICE includes the Border Patrol, which is key to controlling illegal immigration; all immigration detention and deportation operations; immigration inspectors who screen foreign visitors at U.S. ports; and customs operations, among other services. The head of ICE will manage 22,000 employees and a $4 billion budget. In Myers' most-related job, she managed 170 employees and a $25 million budget for a year as assistant secretary for export enforcement at the Commerce Department.
That's simply not enough managerial or law-enforcement experience to qualify her to run ICE.
Senators should reject Myers' nomination. The person to head ICE needs to be a field- and time-tested leader who understands the tough challenges that immigration and customs enforcement entail.


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