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Biden-pick Ur Jaddou confirmed to head Citizenship and Immigration Services

3 minute read

Information packs are distributed by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services following a citizenship ceremony at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S., July 18, 2018. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

  • Republicans, conservatives strongly opposed nomination
  • Jaddou is first woman to lead USCIS
  • Agency administers naturalization and immigration system

(Reuters) - The U.S. Senate on Friday confirmed Ur Jaddou, who was chief counsel for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services during the Obama administration, to head the agency as President Joe Biden seeks to overhaul his predecessor's hardline immigration policies.

The Democrat-led Senate voted 47-34 to approve the nomination of Jaddou, who since 2018 has been the director of immigration watchdog group DHS Watch, an arm of progressive organization America's Voice. She will be the first female director of USCIS.

Jaddou, a California native and daughter of Iraqi and Mexican immigrants, could not immediately be reached for comment.

USCIS, a part of the Department of Homeland Security, administers the country's immigration and naturalization system. Its responsibilities include processing immigrant visa petitions and applications for naturalization, asylum, green cards and refugee status.

Biden's nomination of Jaddou was met with fierce opposition from some Republicans and conservative groups. At a May confirmation hearing, Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa said he was concerned about Jaddou's past claims that USCIS has broad authority to grant parole to immigrants who unlawfully enter the U.S.

And in a June letter to senators, the conservative Heritage Foundation said that as USCIS chief counsel and a member of Biden's transition team, Jaddou laid the groundwork for a series of actions that triggered the current crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border. Jaddou helped craft the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and Biden's 100-day moratorium on deportations, among other initiatives.

"This is who President Biden thinks should be running the agency charged with administering America’s legal immigration program — an individual with a demonstrated track record of undermining America’s immigration laws and encouraging mass illegal immigration," Heritage Foundation officials said.

But Jaddou was backed by a broad coalition of Democrats, immigrant advocates and trade groups. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce in a May letter said Jaddou's knowledge and experience would be critical to stabilize USCIS' financial challenges, reduce its significant backlogs, and provide more consistency to stakeholders.

"Throughout Ms. Jaddou’s public service, she has shown a keen understanding of how USCIS operations affect businesses across various industries," wrote Neil Bradley, the Chamber's executive vice president.

The National Citizenship and Immigration Services Council, the union that represents USCIS employees, also supported Jaddou. The union in May told senators that she was well equipped to tackle financial and operational challenges at the agency, and would be a strong partner in ensuring the rights and safety of agency employees.

Before joining USCIS, Jaddou served as a deputy assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of State and as chief counsel to the House Judiciary Committee’s Immigration Subcommittee.

Dan Wiessner (@danwiessner) reports on labor and employment and immigration law, including litigation and policy making. He can be reached at daniel.wiessner@thomsonreuters.com.

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