Bush's immigration agency appointment drawing fire


Published: Sunday, January 8, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 7, 2006 at 10:42 p.m.
WASHINGTON - Senate Democrats this week sharply criticized President Bush's decision to install Julie L. Myers, a White House official, as head of the nation's immigration enforcement agency despite concerns on the part of some about her qualifications for the job.
Myers, a 36-year-old lawyer, will be sworn in on Monday. She currently serves as the president's special assistant for personnel and previously worked as an assistant secretary at the Department of Commerce. She has never managed a large department or dealt extensively with immigration issues.
When Bush nominated Myers last year, Democratic and Republican senators raised concerns about her lack of experience, and her Senate confirmation appeared to be in doubt. Some critics said they feared that her political connections, rather than her qualifications, had driven the decision to select her to lead the bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which has 15,000 employees and a budget of about $4 billion.
On Wednesday, Bush bypassed the Senate confirmation process and used his power of recess appointment to install Myers as director of the bureau, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security. The department's secretary, Michael Chertoff, praised Myers, saying that she possessed "the experience, judgment and determination" necessary for the job.
But some Senate Democrats said they were still concerned about her ability to manage the bureau. The agency has been beset by controversies, including accusations of mismanagement of its budget and questions about its effectiveness in enforcing immigration laws.
At the Department of Commerce, Myers supervised a unit of 170 employees.
Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, D-Conn., said on Friday that Myers "really was not qualified for the position." Lieberman said Congress had intended the position to be held by someone with at least five years' management experience.

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