Senate confirms new USCIS chief

The Senate has confirmed Emilio Gonzalez as the new director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) at the Homeland Security Department, DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff announced today.

“Securing our nation’s borders and reforming our immigration process is a top priority,” Chertoff said in a statement. “USCIS plays a vital role in addressing those priorities, and we are pleased to have Dr. Gonzalez on the team.”

Congress confirmed Gonzalez last week, said Chris Bentley, a USCIS spokesman. Gonzalez awaits swearing in and is expected to start in the first week of January.

Responsible for all federal immigration services not related to law enforcement, Gonzalez faces numerous challenges, including eliminating a backlog of roughly 1.2 million applications for immigration benefits.

Gonzalez is a former director of Western Hemisphere Affairs at the National Security Council in Washington, D.C., and has advised President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on national security and foreign policy issues.

A U.S. Army veteran of 26 years, Gonzalez was a military attaché to the U.S. embassies in El Salvador and Mexico. He has led U.S. Southern Command’s Office of Special Assistants for the Commander in Chief. He has a doctorate in international relations from the University of Miami.

Gonzalez replaces Eduardo Aguirre Jr., whom President Bush nominated in April to be ambassador to Spain and Andorra.

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