Washington • The controversial nomination of a Utahn known for his anti-illegal immigrant positions is no longer pending in the U.S. Senate as a new session started this week and President Donald Trump would have to nominate him again.
Ronald Mortensen, who was Trump’s pick to head the State Department’s bureau over refugee and migration issues, came under fire immediately last May – including from Utah Gov. Gary Herbert and the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce – claiming his ties to an association labeled a hate group and his anti-immigrant rhetoric disqualifies him.
Mortensen’s nomination expired and it was returned this week to the White House, which has the option to send his name back for consideration. No Senate action was ever taken on the nomination and several senators came out against the nod.
Both Sens. Mike Lee and Orrin Hatch were unaware of Trump’s plans to nominate the Utahn at the time and Hatch, now a former senator, wasn’t exactly supportive.
“Senator Hatch has worked well with this particular office in the State Department for decades, as hundreds of immigrant and refugee families in Utah can attest, and will work to ensure the office continues to serve Utah values well,” Hatch spokesman Matt Whitlock said at the time. “Those values include a strong focus on ensuring families can stay together within the framework of the law.”
Mortensen, of Bountiful, is a former career foreign service officer who has railed agains the impacts of illegal immigration, including linking immigrants to higher crime rates.
He’s also a fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies, considered a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, and he’s written online pieces slamming immigrants for stealing identities and blasting immigrants brought to America as children – often referred to as Dreamers – for “destroying the futures of innocent American children.”
Mortensen did not immediately return a request for comment by The Tribune on Friday.