Apr 13, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Biden weighs Ken Salazar for ambassador to Mexico

Joe Biden and Ken Salazar are seen embracing at the 2012 Democratic National Convention.
Joe Biden and Ken Salazar embrace at the 2012 Democratic National Convention. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

The Biden administration is vetting Ken Salazar, a former senator and Interior secretary, to serve as U.S. ambassador to Mexico, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: President Biden is close to publicly naming a slate of ambassadors. In considering a former Senate colleague for Mexico City, he's acknowledging the crisis on the border will require both diplomatic and political skills to solve.

Driving the news: Biden has started to call some of his potential ambassadors to offer them foreign postings, people familiar with the matter say.

  • The process is in its early stages, and not everyone who will end up getting an ambassadorship has been contacted, a person familiar with the matter told Axios.
  • "The president has not made the decision about the vast majority of his ambassadorial nominations," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday.

Go deeper: Salazar, who describes himself as a “12th-generation son of the Southwest,” was elected to the Senate in 2004 and resigned his seat to become President Obama's first Interior secretary.

  • When he left the Interior Department in 2013, he joined the international law firm WilmerHale, where he still practices.
  • During the campaign, the 66-year-old served as a co-chair of Biden’s Latino leadership committee.

The big picture: On immigration, Biden is taking a different approach than President Trump, both to the border itself and the relationship with the government of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador of Mexico.

  • Trump threatened López Obrador with closing Mexico's northern border to the United States and demanded Mexico deploy forces to its southern border to prevent Central American migrants from transiting through Mexico en route to the U.S.
  • Trump and López Obrador ultimately agreed to the Migrant Protection Protocols, requiring asylum seekers to remain in Mexico while their applications were processed in the U.S.

In one of his first acts as president, Biden suspended the MPP and has tried to strike a different tone with the Mexican government.

  • López Obrador has laid the blame for the border crisis at Biden's feet: “Expectations were created that with the government of President Biden, there would be a better treatment of migrants," he said last month.
  • "This has caused Central American migrants, and also from our country, wanting to cross the border thinking that it is easier to do so.”
  • Biden has continued using a Trump-era public health order to quickly turn back to Mexico migrant adults and some families attempting to cross the border.

Flashback: President Obama’s last ambassador to Mexico, Roberta Jacobson, came out of retirement to serve as Biden’s border czar.

  • She announced last week she will leave her post in the coming days.
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