Today, CQ Homeland Security published a story with quotes from three Security Debrief contributors. Chris Battle, former director of public affairs at ICE and Security Debrief Editor spoke to John Morton’s prosecution background as an asset for his confirmation as assistant secretary at ICE. Further, Julie Myers Wood, former assistant secretary at ICE, said that Morton’s unique understanding of communications and law enforcement from his days at the Justice department will be a useful skill for the work that lays ahead. And, Rich Cooper, contributor and principal at Catalyst Partners, felt that Craig Fugate’s experience in leadership of Florida’s emergency management system would make him an excellent candidate for the position of FEMA administrator.
Partial excerpts below:
President Obama’s nominees for two of the most important and high-profile jobs at the Department of Homeland Security will face questions from a Senate panel Wednesday.
Although the work of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Federal Emergency Management Agency can stir political controversy, the nominees to lead the agencies aren’t likely to spark any fireworks at their confirmation hearing before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
W. Craig Fugate, nominee for FEMA administrator, and John T. Morton, nominee for ICE assistant secretary, appear qualified for the work that would lie ahead of them, experts said Tuesday.
The emergency management community and elected officials seemed pleased at the nomination of Fugate, Florida’s top emergency management official.
Rich Cooper, a principal at the homeland security consulting firm Catalyst Partners, awaits Fugate, however: whether he thinks FEMA should remain within DHS.
“That question’s going to come right out of the box,” Cooper said, adding that he doesn’t expect a simple “yes” or “no” answer, especially because DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano has not weighed in publicly on the issue. Obama also has not issued a firm opinion.
Morton’s career at the Department of Justice makes him a perfect candidate to head ICE, said Julie Myers Wood, that agency’s former head.
“I think it’s very helpful to have a prosecutor in the top ICE job,” Wood said. “A lot of the issues that came to me involved legal decisions, and, being a prosecutor, you’re used to asking the tough questions, you’re used to looking all around the issue. That’s something I found useful, my predecessor found useful, and I think John Morton will find useful.”
Chris Battle, the former director of public affairs at ICE who now manages homeland security issues for the Adfero Group, a Washington, D.C.,-based public relations firm, said Morton seems to have the right experience for the job, including prosecutions for human smuggling, passport fraud and other immigration-related crimes.
“As a former federal prosecutor, he brings the understanding of law enforcement and interaction with law enforcement,” Battle said, “but also brings the packaging and communications skills of a trial lawyer, someone who has to convince an audience, whether it’s a jury or Congress, on the justice of his position.”
Still, immigration will be a huge issue at the hearing — and a potential land mine for Morton, Battle said. Members in several congressional committees have already begun to question whether immigration enforcement, such as workplace raids, will change under the Obama administration.
“I think [Morton] would be very wise to take a restrained position on work-site enforcement and internal-immigration enforcement until he’s officially on board and has had a chance to sit down with the secretary and members of Congress,” Battle said. “This is a politically explosive issue, and ICE has become a political football.”
Congress has been “practically schizophrenic” in its enforcement guidance for ICE, Battle said; expressing the wrong opinion in front of the wrong official could spell trouble for the nominee.
“On the one side they’re told to perform work-site enforcement, on the other side they’re called the Gestapo for doing it,” Battle said, adding, “Congress needs to come up with a coherent immigration strategy.”
Read the full story here.