Human Rights and Civil Society

Obama nominates Maria Echaveste as U.S. ambassador to Mexico

US Mexico Ambassador nomination
Maria Echaveste. Photo: UC Berkeley School of Law.

10/16/14 (written by sramirez) — President Barack Obama recently announced his nomination for the new U.S. ambassador to Mexico, naming Maria Echaveste on September 18 as his top choice to fill the position. If approved, Echaveste (60) would not only be the first woman to be appointed as the U.S. envoy to Mexico, but also one of the few Mexican-Americans to hold this position. Her nomination will likely go before the Senate for approval at the end of 2014.

A daughter of immigrants, Maria Echaveste was raised in Texas and California to farm-working parents that had migrated from Mexico to the United States under the federal “Bracero” program, which attracted agricultural and manual laborers from abroad during World War II. According to the Washington Post, as a child, Echaveste helped her parents pick strawberries in the field, giving her a first-hand look at the daily life of migrants in the United States, and the value of the work force they contribute to. “What is it about this work—child and parental care, home maintenance, food production, cleaning—that allows society to treat the workers in these occupations as invisible, or at least less important than the software developer, insurance adjustor, or any of the countless other occupations that have greater status in our society?” questioned Echaveste in 2009, reflecting on her parents’ experiences. From Texas and California, Echaveste went on to study anthropology in Stanford and then continued on to receive a law degree from the University of California, Berkeley School of Law, where she currently serves as Policy and Program Development Director at the Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute on Law and Social Policy. She practiced as a corporate litigation attorney from 1980 to 1992, and then co-founded the company NVG, LLC in 2001, where she still serves as a Senior Advisor. Politically speaking, Echaveste was Assistant to the President and Deputy Chief of Staff in the White House under the Clinton administration from 1998 to 2001, and Special Representative to Bolivia in 2009.

While many are applauding President Obama’s nomination, recognizing the potential Echaveste could have in fueling migration reform and given her Mexican-American background, the Washington Post reports that while “many of her supporters believe she will win Senate confirmation, … some are still anxious that unpredictable mid-term elections, or potential presidential action on immigration, could become disruptive.” Still, journalist Leon Krauze from Mexican newspaper El Universal expressed his concerns on Obama’s nomination, specifically commenting on Echaveste’s limited diplomatic career. In a column titled “The Mystery of Echaveste,” Krauze questioned Echaveste’s credentials, arguing that “the principal asset of Ms. Echaveste is being a) the daughter of Mexican immigrants and b) a Hispanic woman. It’s a shame. The ambassador from Washington in Mexico is not there to fill quotas.”

While differing opinions arise on Ms. Echaveste’s capabilities to successfully fulfill the position as Ambassador to Mexico, the decision awaits the U.S. Senate vote, which is anticipated by the end of 2014. If approved, Echaveste will replace current U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Earl Anthony Wayne, who has served in this role since 2011.


Press Release. “President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts.” Office of the Press Secretary, The White House. September 18, 2014.

Krauze, León. “El misterio de Echaveste.” El Universal. September 22, 2014.

Parlow, Joshua. “Nominee for envoy to Mexico would be woman, daughter of immigrants.” Washington Post. September 26, 2014.

Notimex. “Crimen y migración, temas para la embajadora Echaveste.” Excélsior. October 4, 2014.

Webpage. “About Us: Maria Echaveste.” University of California, Berkeley Law. Last accessed October 16, 2014.

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