(Bloomberg) -- The Trump administration’s pick to lead the United Nations migration agency failed to win sufficient support among member states on Friday in a sharp, unprecedented rebuke of U.S. immigration policies and the candidate.
Ken Isaacs, an executive with Samaritan’s Purse, a Christian relief charity that’s headed by Franklin Graham, son of the late Reverend Billy Graham, couldn’t muster enough votes among the 169 members of the International Organization of Migration at a meeting in Geneva. His candidacy, submitted in February, had been in trouble from the start because of tweets perceived to be anti-Muslim.
The rebuff was unprecedented in the almost 70-year history of the agency, which had been traditionally led by an American. Instead the agency’s members chose Antonio Vitorino, a member of Portugal’s Socialist Party, as the new director general. It was another example of global leaders showing disdain for U.S. immigration policy particularly after President Donald Trump’s administration began separating children from parents who attempted to cross the border from Mexico illegally.
Isaacs was nominated with the support of White House senior adviser Stephen Miller, an architect of Trump’s hard-line policies on immigration.
U.S. relations with UN agencies also were strained by the Trump administration’s withdrawal this month from the world body’s Human Rights Council. U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley called the rights group “a cesspool of political bias” against Israel.
Isaacs’ tweets, which said Islam wasn’t inherently a peaceful religion, came to light soon after his nomination. After State Department officials warned him, he deleted the tweets and made his Twitter account private. He also apologized for a tweet saying that Christians are “genocide victims” and should get priority among refugees.
The White House issued a statement in May vouching for Isaacs and citing his “34 years of service with humanitarian and development operations around the world.” It said he was “someone who understands the ways of Washington and who can advocate most effectively” for the migration agency.
The International Organization for Migration, established in 1951, to resettle Europeans displaced after Word War II, has a planned budget of about $1.1 billion for 2018. It tracks migrant flows globally, resettles refugees, and provides emergency assistance to people fleeing conflict. The agency also plays a role in returning combatants to civilian life.
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