The U.S. Senate confirmed Sarah Saldaña, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Texas, as the next director the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency.

With almost unanimous opposition from the Republican Party, Saldaña received enough votes for the ICE position with the 55-38 vote.

Saldaña's confirmation -- which makes her the first Latina to direct the $6 billion federal agency, one of the main three federal immigration agencies under the U.S. Department of Homeland Security -- was under scrutiny. Following President Barack Obama's immigration executive actions on Nov. 20, Saldaña was questioned about her stance on his decision.

"I believe that the president of the United States, as others before him, has legal authority to take executive action to address areas within the purview of the executive branch," Saldana replied to Senate Republicans.

Saldaña has been the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Texas, leading four offices comprising of nearly 220 employees, since 2011. That same year, she was awarded Latina Attorney of the Year by the Hispanic National Bar Association (HBNA).

"The HNBA is very pleased with her confirmation by the Senate," said HBNA President Cynthia Mares to Latin Post. "She has incredible talent and the right credentials to lead ICE at a time when it is so desperately needed."

A Corpus Christi, Texas native, Saldaña is a Summa Cum Laude graduate from Texas A&I University. Texas A&I Alumni Association President Manuel Saenz, Jr., in a statement to Latin Post, said, "On behalf of the Texas A&I Alumni Association, I am very delighted to express how proud we all are of U.S. Attorney Sarah Saldana (Texas A&I University, '73) who was recently appointed by President Obama as our nation's top immigration enforcer."

"By way of teaching she has worked for various federal agencies, including the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, HUD, and the Department of Labor," added Saenz, Jr. "All of us in the Texas A&I Alumni Association are extremely proud of Sarah. We wish her all the best. We have no doubt she'll represent our Texas A&I University Alumni with honor and integrity."

Senate Democrats, such as Sen. Bob Menendez, D-New Jersey, said the GOP opposed Saldaña simply due to Obama's executive actions rather than focus on her credentials.

"We cannot judge the qualifications of Sarah Saldaña to run Immigration and Customs Enforcement based solely on the fact that she agrees with the policy decisions of the president who nominated her," said Menendez. "That is an absurd and completely illogical standard."

Following her confirmation, Obama released a statement and applauded the Senate's confirmation.

"With her years of experience enforcing the law - most recently as U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas - Sarah is the right person to lead the dedicated men and women at ICE in securing our borders, keeping American communities safe, and upholding our values," said Obama. "Since I took office, illegal border crossings are down and removal of dangerous criminals is up. I'm confident Sarah will help us build on this progress while protecting our country in a smart, effective, and humane way."

"We congratulate Sarah Saldaña on her confirmation as the director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Her experience in the federal government and as a U.S. Attorney will help her tackle the daily challenges of the job," said National Immigration Forum Executive Director Ali Noorani. "At this pivotal moment for our immigration system, the Department of Homeland Security finally has filled its key leadership positions. We look forward to working with Ms. Saldaña, especially on ending detention of families, expanding alternatives to detention and implementing smart new enforcement priorities."


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