MCALLEN, RGV – Texas senior senator in Washington, John Cornyn, has welcomed the Senate’s long-awaited confirmation of Roberta Jacobson as U.S. Ambassador to Mexico.
The Senate confirmation was made Thursday through unanimous consent – without a roll call – once U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio dropped his opposition.
“The United States’ relationship with Mexico is essential to our country’s economy and security, and our Ambassador serves as a critical nexus for this partnership,” Cornyn, R-Texas, said, in a statement. “Today is a key step towards filling what is a crucial diplomatic post not just to Texas, but for the nation as a whole.”
Though viewed by many as highly qualified to be ambassador, Jacobson’s confirmation had been stymied due to politics. Sen. Rubio had blocked Jacobson’s path in retaliation to President Obama’s decision to normalize U.S. relations with Cuba. The U.S. has not had an ambassador in Mexico for the past nine months.
Jacobson, aged 55, is currently assistant secretary of State for Western Hemispheric affairs. She began her service to her country on the staff of the National Security Council in 1988, during the administration of President George H.W. Bush. Under President Bill Clinton she served as director of the Office of Policy Planning and Coordination in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs. Under President George W. Bush, she served as the director of the State Department’s Office of Mexican Affairs, and then as the deputy assistant secretary for Canada, Mexico and NAFTA issues. Under President Obama, she has served as principal deputy secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs, and as assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere Affairs.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry praised the Senate’s confirmation. He said the U.S. was sending “one of our finest diplomats” to advance an important relationship. “I have long relied on Roberta’s wise counsel and good cheer, and I am confident that as ambassador, she will bring her extensive experience and judgment to this critical post,” Kerry said in a statement.
Mexico’s department of foreign affairs said Jacobson’s confirmation “demonstrates the importance of a bilateral relationship which, given its maturity, transcends internal situations.” The statement added: “Ambassador Jacobson will give a new impetus to our bilateral relations and will contribute to consolidating a new institutional structure, lending more certainty and solidity to this relationship.”
U.S. Rep. Linda Sánchez, D-Calif., chairs the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. She released this statement on the Senate confirmation of Jacobson to be U.S. Ambassador to Mexico:
“I’m relieved the Senate has finally acted to confirm Roberta Jacobson to be our ambassador to Mexico. There was never any justification for holding up the nomination of such a qualified candidate. Sadly, this drawn out 10-month process was purely politically motivated.
“Mexico is one of our most important regional and economic partners, and maintaining our close relationship is crucial to the United States’ long-term success. I am confident Roberta Jacobson will do a terrific job representing the interests of the United States in Mexico.”
U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar is a big supporter of Jacobson. Last November, Cuellar said she has “an impressive array of work experience” dedicated to the Western Hemisphere and Mexico, noting that she speaks Spanish fluently.
“I know Ms. Jacobson well from her work on the Merida Initiative, a program which I supported in Congress between the U.S., Mexico and countries of Central America to combat drug trafficking, transnational organized crime and money laundering. Ms. Jacobson ran the State Department’s Mexico office at the time and helped draft the plan,” Cuellar said.
“It is vital that we have a solid leader with a background such as hers as our nation’s ambassador to Mexico. The U.S. and Mexico share a 2,000-mile border, and the relations between our two nations have a drastic impact on millions on Americas. One million American citizens live in Mexico, and Mexico is the top tourist destination for Americans, with over 20 million visiting the country in 2013. Mexico is our nation’s second-largest export market and third-largest trading partner.
“In 2014 two-way trade in goods and services was more than $550 billion. That’s nearly $1.4 billion of two-way trade between our two nations every day. In addition to this, there are other important issues to solve for which an ambassador like Ms. Jacobson will be vitally important, such as finding approaches to combat transnational organized crime, enhance law enforcement cooperation and stem the flow of illicit money, drugs, people and arms across our borders.”
Sen. Cornyn and U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar wrote an op-ed in support of Jacobson’s confirmation as ambassador last December. Here is the op-ed:
The United States and Mexico share a 2,000-mile border, but our shared connections run much deeper than geographic proximity.
Mexico is our third-largest trading partner, with more than $550 billion in trade each year in goods and services since 2013. U.S. exports to Mexico have grown in recent years from approximately $129 billion in 2009 to $240 billion in 2014 — an increase of more than 86 percent. And of course, the personal bonds between our nations cannot be underestimated. More than 1 million Americans live in Mexico and an estimated 20 million tourists from the United States visit Mexico each year.
Because of our strong, long-lasting relationships, it is imperative that the United States have a full-time ambassador to Mexico.
Roberta Jacobson, President Barack Obama’s nominee for this post, is an experienced diplomat with the State Department and she has the expertise necessary to serve such an important role. That is why we join together in a bicameral and bipartisan effort to urge her prompt confirmation.
We believe that Ms. Jacobson’s vast experience and service under two Republican and two Democratic administrations proves her competence and effectiveness to steward one of the United States’ most important bilateral relationships.
In 1988, Ms. Jacobson began her service to our country on the staff of the National Security Council during the administration of President George H.W. Bush. Under President Bill Clinton she served as director of the Office of Policy Planning and Coordination in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs. Under President George W. Bush, she served as the director of the State Department’s Office of Mexican Affairs, and then as the deputy assistant secretary for Canada, Mexico and NAFTA issues. Under President Obama, she has served as principal deputy secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs, and as assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere Affairs.
To put it simply, Ms. Jacobson is well positioned to not only continue, but to deepen our bilateral ties with Mexico at a strategic turning point in our relationship. Already, U.S. aid to Mexico through efforts like the Merida Initiative, combined with increased border security, has helped combat drug trafficking, transnational organized crime, money laundering and human trafficking. Our sharing of resources and intelligence has helped Mexico improve its domestic security and make several high-profile arrests of cartel leaders who have supplied billions of dollars in illegal drugs to communities throughout the United States.
But while tremendous progress has been made, the United States and Mexico have a great opportunity to build an even stronger partnership. For example, our mutual goal of an economically secure and stable Central America is fundamental to our national security. Having a capable, experienced ambassador in place in Mexico City working on behalf of our national priorities — including our national security — should be a top concern for every member of Congress.
In an era unfortunately characterized by partisanship and endless debates over nominations, confirming Roberta Jacobson represents a grand opportunity to work together across party lines. To further our national interests and strengthen the bilateral relationship between the United States and one of our most indispensable partners, we urge prompt approval of her nomination.
Jacobson is expected to take up the position of ambassador in Mexico City immediately.