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Texas Federal Prosecutor Could Become First Latina To Head ICE

Texas prosecutor Sarah Saldaña could be the first Latina nominated to head Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
File photo of United States Attorney Sarah R. Saldaña of the Northern District of Texas speaking at a news conference in 2012.LM Otero / AP file

Texas federal prosecutor Sarah Saldaña is being vetted by the administration for the job of director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, putting her in the running to be the first Latina at the helm of the agency responsible for arresting, detaining and deporting immigrants.

Saldaña, the U.S. attorney in the northern district of Texas, is the leading candidate nominated to head ICE, a government official confirmed for NBC News. Her consideration for the post was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

In 2011, Saldaña became the state's first Hispanic woman chief prosecutor after being nominated by Sen. John Cornyn and former Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, both Texas Republicans. Her nomination set off a dispute between Cornyn and Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas, who opposed Saldaña's prosecution of Dallas black leaders, the Dallas Morning News reported at the time. She had support from Latino leaders and other Democrats.

Saldaña was named Latina Attorney of the Year at the Hispanic National Bar Association’s 38th Annual Convention last year.

Saldaña worked in private practice before becoming a prosecutor, where she has focused on public corruption cases. In 2008, she was also appointed as a District Election Officer to monitor voting rights abuses and fraud.

The Latina prosecutor was born in 1951 in Corpus Christi, Texas, and obtained a law degree in 1984 at Southern Methodist University.

Saldaña still must be nominated and if that happens, get Senate approval. If she is eventually hired, she would head an organization that has a tense relationship with Latinos, who make up the overwhelming majority of immigrants in the U.S. illegally at this time. However, 21.6 percent of ICE employees identify as Hispanic or Latino, according to ICE.

The Obama administration has deported more than two million immigrants, a record, and that has made him the subject of protest by immigrant and Latino groups. ICE's previous director issued guidelines to prioritize criminals for deportation. But immigrant rights and Latino groups, who are urging the administration to curb deportations say these still include people with immigration violations and traffic offenses.