Biden Touted For Diverse Transition Team But Concerns Grow Over Controversial Immigration Adviser
Cecilia Muñoz has faced criticism for defending the Obama administration's harsh immigration policies.
November 17, 2020 at 12:18 am
As President-elect Joe Biden fills out his transition team, concern has arisen over some of his choices.
Muñoz served for five years as director of the White House Domestic Policy Council under former President Barack Obama, a position she held for five years. She also spent three years as White House Director of Intergovernmental Affairs.
Biden has appointed Cecilia Muñoz, former head of Obama's domestic policy council, to his transition team. Muñoz is best known for her role in the mass deportation of immigrants. She is loathed by the very immigration activists who delivered states like Arizona to Joe Biden.
— cabral (@axcomrade) November 12, 2020
The former Obama staffer has long drawn ire from advocates for her role in shaping his harsh immigration policies. Recently, she received criticism for comments she made during his time in office that has since caused concern about what she may do once Biden officially takes office.
“At the end of the day, when you have an immigration law that’s broken and you have a community of 10 million, 11 million people living and working in the United States illegally, some of these things are going to happen, even if the law is executed with perfection," Muñoz said. "There will be parents separated from their children. We don’t have to like it, but it is a result of having a broken system of laws. And the answer to that problem is reforming the law.”
Here is a clip of Cecilia Munoz, now on Biden's transition team, defending the separation of immigrant families. "Some of these things are going to happen."
It's going to be an interesting four years of healing for the soul of the nation. pic.twitter.com/U157cNhtdq
— Branko Marcetic (@BMarchetich) November 14, 2020
Trump has often defended his cruel immigration policies, saying that many of them began under Obama, according to The New York Times. In 2018, when he ordered border officials to separate children from their parents, many people began using the phrase "kids in cages" — a tacit reference to the chain-link fence pens that held non-citizens along the border. Outrage grew as news outlets showed small children held in cages, and eventually, the family separation policy was stopped, but now more than 600 children are permanently separated from their parents.
During a debate in October, Trump bashed his critics by reminding people that the "cages" were built under Obama, and Biden called Obama's immigration policies "a mistake," vowing to work on immigration reform if elected, according to Politico.
As with most things Trump says, there is both fact and fiction in his statements. The Washington Post reported that in 2014, there was a surge of migrants from Central America who made their way to the border in Texas and overwhelmed border officials. At the height of the crisis, 4,000 people showed up at the border every day, many of whom were fleeing violence and unemployment.
The surge was fueled by smugglers who told women and children that they would not be deported if they made it across the border. Thousands of children were caught traveling alone with phones or sheets of paper with phone numbers for relatives who lived in the United States, according to The Washington Post.
“What we’re hearing is that the Americans are helping Hondurans right now. And even more for women and children. I don’t know if it’s true,” 25-year-old mother Fany Yaneth told The Washington Post in 2014. “This is what I want to do. I’m going to arrive at the bridge, to walk up to American immigration and hold out my hand.”
In order to handle the influx, Obama-era officials built the facilities that would end up being called the "cages" that Trump used for his draconian policies. Obama faced criticism when it was revealed that some of the cages were outside, leaving people in the sweltering heat for hours. In response, they put the fences inside, creating the facilities that Trump ended up using for his policies.
According to The Washington Post, migrants began calling the cages "la perra" or "the dog kennel" during Obama's presidency.
Obama faced withering criticism from both sides, with Republicans claiming his policies were fueling the surge and allowing thousands into the country illegally, while immigration advocates bashed him for the conditions of the holding pens and criticized him for deporting thousands on planes back to countries like Guatemala and El Salvador, according to The Migration Policy Institute.
But The New York Times reported that the Obama administration only separated children from adults at the border when officials had concerns about the relationship between the child and the adult they were with or if they discovered that the adult had a criminal record.
Despite the criticism over his decision to add Muñoz to his team, Biden has said he plans to reverse significant parts of Trump's immigrations policies through executive orders. According to the Associated Press, Biden plans to reinstate DACA, remove the "Muslim" travel ban on 13 countries and return to Obama-era rules that said only those with criminal records will be deported.
But much of the famed border wall that Trump built will stay up and there are hints that Biden will continue to allow the Department of Homeland Security to quickly deport people and families using an arcane public health rule concerning COVID-19.
During a town hall event in June, Biden pledged to make sure his staff would be as diverse as possible.
"My administration's going to look like America, not just my staff, the administration from the vice president straight down through Cabinet members to major players within the White House, and the court. It's going to be a reflection of who we are as a nation," he said, according to CNN.
In addition to the announcement of Muñoz being added to the team, CNN reported that 46% of Biden's nearly 500-person transition staff is made up of people of color and more than 50% are women.
"For months, the Biden-Harris transition has laid the groundwork for a Biden-Harris administration, and at the core of that work is an unrelenting commitment to diversity," Ted Kaufman, co-chair of the Biden-Harris transition, told CNN.
"As we continue working full-speed ahead to Inauguration, our diverse group of leaders and staff are reflective of America — upholding President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris' belief that through diverse voices we can develop and implement a policy vision to tackle our nation's toughest challenges."