Experience counts

September 21, 2005

JULIE MYERS knows many important people in Washington. She worked recently for President Bush as a special assistant handling personnel matters. She was chief of staff for Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff when he ran the criminal division of the Justice Department, and recently married his current chief of staff. She is also the niece of Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

In Washington, it pays to have friends and family in high places. That's an understatement when it comes to the Bush administration. The president's penchant for rewarding friends and political loyalists with government jobs they are not qualified for is now common knowledge. After the recent fallout over the bungled handling of Hurricane Katrina relief efforts by Michael Brown, the less-than-qualified and now former head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, it was reasonable to hope that Mr. Bush would put the brakes on other such important appointments.

Unfortunately, Mr. Bush has not. Ms. Myers, whom he nominated for the job of assistant secretary of homeland security in charge of the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), would be just such an appointment -- and members of a Senate homeland security committee considering her appointment made no secret of their concern that she was wrong for the job. We share that concern and believe there are better candidates with more relevant experience to run an agency responsible for enforcing the nation's immigration laws, patrolling U.S. borders, locating and deporting illegal immigrants, and much more.

That is not to say that Ms. Myers' work history is unimpressive. She has worked on money-laundering and drug-smuggling cases. But she has no experience in immigration enforcement, a key component of homeland security efforts, and that's why the position should go to someone who does.

Charles Showalter, president of the union representing nearly 8,000 workers at the ICE, correctly laments the questionable hiring of "a large number of managers" at the department with no immigration enforcement experience. "This is a law enforcement operation, and these jobs should not be given as a favor to someone," he says. "Politics should not be the driving force of law enforcement." At a time when the country's southern border is being overrun by illegal immigrants from Mexico and who knows where else, let's hope Mr. Showalter's warning doesn't prove to be prescient.

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