Immigration Advocates Look Warmly at Obama's Choice of Leadership for Task Force

It’s fitting that Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar grew up in Calexico, the California town whose name is a combination of California and Mexico.  As a leader of President-elect Barack Obama’s task force on immigration, Cuéllar can certainly use some transcultural sensitivity.



Cuéllar, a law professor at Stanford University, has been named one of the co-heads of the Obama transition’s Immigration Policy Working Group.  The transition’s web site says he is in charge of “working on a plan to implement the President-elect’s commitments to fix the immigration system through legislative and executive actions that promote prosperity, enhance our security, strengthen families, and advance the rule of law.”

Cuéllar has called the current immigration situation in the U.S. “a humanitarian crisis that we’ve ignored” and one that deserves an appropriate response, Spanish wire Agencia EFE reported.

EFE interviewed pro-immigration reform activists, who said they were satisfied with the appointment. Cuéllar, reporter María Peña wrote, “is known for his pragmatism and sensitivity toward the subject and his appointment this week confirms … that the incoming administration is committed to comprehensive immigration reform.”

Clarissa Martinez de Castro of the National Council of La Raza, told Peña:

Cuéllar is a good choice and we think that this time reason will win out over the toxic rhetoric of groups that have tried to inject fear into the electorate about immigrants. He’s very pragmatic and, although the economy is the United States’ top priority at this time, we think that in the end people will recognize that sensible immigration policy also will be good for our economy.

Brent Wilkes, executive director of the League of United Latin American Citizens, said the appointment “makes it clear that Obama continues to support reform.”

It’s not the first time the 36-year-old Cuéllar has worked with a Democratic administration: he was an adviser to Pres. Bill Clinton’s Treasury Department. The San Jose Mercury News reported that, during this year’s campaign, he advised the Obama team “on a variety of issues, including immigration, criminal justice and Latino voter outreach.”

The transition web site provides the following résumé for Cuéllar:

Mariano-Florentino (Tino) Cuéllar is Professor and Deane F. Johnson Faculty Scholar at Stanford Law School. His work focuses on how organizations manage complex regulatory, migration, international security, and criminal justice problems.

During the Clinton Administration he served at Treasury as Senior Advisor to the Under Secretary for Enforcement, where he worked on countering domestic and international financial crime, improving border coordination, and enhancing anti-corruption measures.

He has served on the boards of numerous organizations, including Asylum Access and the Stanford Center for International Security and Cooperation. He has testified before Congress on immigration policy and separation of powers, and was appointed to the Silicon Valley Blue Ribbon Task Force on Aviation Security. He holds a J.D. from Yale Law School and a Ph.D. in Political Science from Stanford. He is an elected member of the American Law Institute.

Cuéllar’s co-head at the working group is T. Alexander Aleinikoff, a former dean of the Georgetown University Law Center, who “served as General Counsel and Executive Associate Commissioner for Programs at the Immigration and Naturalization Service for several years during the Clinton Administration,” according to the transition.

AboutDiego Graglia
Diego Graglia is a bilingual multimedia journalist who has worked at major media outlets in the U.S. and Latin America. He is currently the editor-in-chief at Expansion, Meixco’s leading business magazine.