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Hispanic to head US immigration bureau

By Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC
February 12, 2003 19:38 IST
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President George W Bush has asked one of his Texas friends to head the newly constituted Homeland Security Department's Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services.

By naming Eduardo Aguirre Jr, a Cuban émigré, to the post, the president has ensured that the Republican Party's Hispanic vote bank stays happy.

Aguirre, currently vice-chairman and first vice-president of the Export-Import Bank of the United States [Ex-Im Bank], will head the unit that will handle all applications for naturalised citizens and a variety of other immigration services, from H-1B visas to student visas and green cards [permanent residency] to international adoptions.

In March, the Homeland Security Department headed by Secretary Tom Ridge will absorb most the Immigration and Naturalisation Service's responsibilities.

The remaining functions will be divided, with one bureau, headed by Aguirre, providing immigration services, and another, whose head is still to be named, enforcing immigration laws and taking charge of Border Patrol.

Before Bush nominated him to the Ex-Im Bank position in May 22, 2001, Aguirre was a Houston-based president of Bank of America's International Private Bank.

During his 24-year career at the Bank of America, Aguirre participated in many corporate-wide leadership initiatives and for three consecutive years, was named 'one of the 100 most influential Hispanics in the nation' by the Hispanic Business Magazine.

Aguirre and the Bank of America were also featured in Latino Success published by Simon & Schuster in 1996.

When Bush was governor of Texas, he appointed Aguirre to the board of regents of the University of Houston System for a six-year term until 2001, serving from 1996 to 1998 as chairman. He was the first Hispanic to serve in that position.

When Bush assumed the presidency, he appointed Aguirre to the

National Commission for Employment Policy, while the Supreme Court of Texas appointed him to the State Bar as a non-attorney director.

Aguirre, an alumnus of Louisiana State University and the American Bankers Association's National Commercial Lending Graduate School at the University of Oklahoma, was one of thousands of Cuban children who were sent to the US surreptitiously after the Cuban Revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power.

In various interviews he had admitted that throughout high school and even during his early college years, he had to struggle because of his poor English. He is thus said to empathise with recent immigrants to the US who lack any knowledge of English and is said to be a strong supporter of ESL [English as a Second Language] programmes.

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Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC
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