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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.

Go deeper

On the front lines of the growing border crisis

A migrant mother and her children sit in the dirt at a temporary processing center under the Anzalduas International Bridge in McAllen, Texas. Photo: Stef Kight/Axios

At night, parents with young children march through the brush after crossing the Rio Grande River in the pitch black. By day, unaccompanied kids arrive at shelters, in one instance 17 of 17 testing positive for COVID-19.

Driving the news: Axios accompanied a delegation of Republican lawmakers to South Texas last week — followed by a unilateral visit to El Paso — to see in real-time the challenges fueled by a border surge, the effects of actions taken by the previous administration, and the lagging response by the new one.

Biden to nominate progressive Tucson police chief to lead border agency

Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden will nominate Tucson police chief Chris Magnus, a longtime critic of Trump-era immigration policies, to oversee Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the New York Times reports.

Why it matters: If confirmed, Magnus would be tasked with addressing a border surge that many have labeled the first new crisis of the Biden administration. The U.S. saw a massive spike in border crossings last month, including a record number of unaccompanied minors.

Apr 12, 2021 - Podcasts

On the ground at the U.S.-Mexico border

The Biden administration reported a record number of migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border in March — the highest in 15 years. 172,000 people have been apprehended at the border, 19,000 of those unaccompanied children and teenagers.

Axios’ Stef Kight and Russell Contreras spent the last week at the border and saw this surge firsthand.

  • Plus, the housing boom no one’s happy about.
  • And, CEOs put political pressure on lawmakers over voting rights.