(CNN) — The United States Senate confirmed this Friday to Ur Mendoza Jaddou as director of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS, for its acronym in English), which gave the agency a permanent head – and the first woman to occupy that position. position— after years of interim leadership. Mendoza Jaddou is the daughter of immigrants, her mother is from Mexico and her father from Iraq.
As the Biden administration implemented a series of immigration measures in recent months, the nominated leaders of the agencies charged with overseeing parts of the immigration system were still awaiting confirmation. The three agencies under the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) – USCIS, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) – have been operating under interim leadership. But Friday’s Senate vote, which went from 47 to 34, now gives USCIS a confirmed leader.
Under former President Donald Trump, USCIS was run by a number of acting officials after L. Francis Cissna left in 2019, most notably immigration hardliner Ken Cuccinelli, who drew attention for his push for Trump’s policies and his frequent engagements with the press. He also rewrote the iconic poem on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty to suggest that only immigrants who can “fend for themselves” are welcome in America.
USCIS became a central element of some of the Trump administration’s more restrictive policies, particularly on asylum, and brought the administration into conflict with asylum officials. Last summer, the agency – which is funded primarily by fees – also came close to laying off employees.
The Biden administration has vowed to adopt a different, more welcoming tone, and reverse the policies that restricted immigration to the US Now, with Mendoza Jaddou at the helm of USCIS.
“Ur has two decades of experience in immigration law, policy and administration. He will administer our nation’s immigration system fairly and equitably,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement. “As the daughter of hardworking immigrants, Ur understands how immigrant families enrich our country and the challenges they face.”
Mendoza Jaddou was the agency’s lead attorney under former President Barack Obama and led Biden-Harris’s DHS transition review team. It was also a criticism of the Trump administration’s policies.
“The daughter of Mexican and Iraqi immigrants, she would be the first woman to lead the USCIS,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a tweet on friday before the vote.
Pending tasks include changes to the US asylum system and the future of the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. A federal judge in Texas recently ruled that the program was illegal and banned new applications, which are processed by USCIS. President Joe Biden has said the administration intends to appeal the ruling. Meanwhile, Mayorkas said the department is preparing a rule to preserve DACA.
In a White House immigration plan released this week, the administration outlined plans to implement what it called a “fair” and “orderly” asylum process, including measures such as authorizing asylum officials to grant asylum applications for those who they reach the southern border of the United States.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism