Controversial ICE chief Julie Myers to leave Nov. 15


The trickle of Bush administration officials headed for the door is likely to become a flood now that the election’s over. Immigration and Customs Enforcement head Julie Myers today became the first major appointee to resign after Barack Obama’s victory. Her last day will be Nov. 15.

Myers’ nearly three-year tenure at ICE has been dogged by controversy, though she eventually won over some skeptics.

After Myers was originally nominated to run ICE in June 2005, senators from both parties doubted she had enough experience to run the 17,000-employee agency.

Myers had the bad luck to have her confirmation hearing scheduled for September 2005, days after Michael Brown resigned as head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Brown’s disappointing performance during and after Hurricane Katrina left lawmakers hungry to root out other unqualified Bush administration appointees, and senators such as George Voinovich, R-Ohio, Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, and Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., originally doubted that Myers had enough immigration experience.

Bush sidestepped the Senate and installed Myers in a recess appointment in January 2006. Myers returned to the Senate Oversight and Government Reform Committee in September 2007, by then having proven herself to many. Voinovich, Akaka and Lieberman turned around and supported Myers, citing the agency’s improved performance on financial oversight and increased arrests of illegal immigrants, and Myers appeared to be on track for an easy confirmation.

But that Halloween, Myers was one of three judges who dubbed an ICE employee’s racially insensitive costume “most original” at an official ICE costume party. The employee wore a black-and-white striped prison jumpsuit and a dreadlocked wig and had darkened his skin to look black. Myers also was photographed with the employee.

ICE head Julie Myers at a 2007 Halloween party with an employee wearing a racially insensitive costume. The House Homeland Security Committee released this photo, and obscured the face of the costumed employee.

ICE head Julie Myers at a 2007 Halloween party with an employee wearing a racially insensitive costume. The House Homeland Security Committee released this photo in April and obscured the face of the costumed employee.

Myers later ordered the photographs to be deleted, though the original files on the camera survived. ICE said she ordered the deletion because she realized too late the costume was offensive and wanted to keep it from accidentally being printed in official publications, and not as part of a coverup because she feared the photographs could derail her Senate confirmation.

They nearly did. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., placed a hold on Myers’ confirmation in November 2007 after word leaked out about the costume. But the Senate approved Myers on a voice vote in December 2007.

Myers was also one of four government leaders – along with Brown, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Alphonso Jackson, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. — who had officers from the overstretched Federal Protective Service run a security assessment on their homes between 2002 and 2006. Lawmakers and union officials in June criticized the assessments as inappropriate, and singled out Myers for criticism because she oversees FPS.


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