Roberta S. Jacobson

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Roberta Jacobson
United States Ambassador to Mexico
In office
June 20, 2016 – May 5, 2018
PresidentBarack Obama
Donald Trump
Preceded byEarl Anthony Wayne
Succeeded byChristopher Landau
Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs
In office
July 31, 2011 – May 5, 2016
Acting: July 31, 2011 – March 30, 2012
PresidentBarack Obama
Preceded byArturo Valenzuela
Succeeded byMari Carmen Aponte (acting)
Personal details
Roberta Ann Steinfeld

(1960-04-14) April 14, 1960 (age 63)
New York City, New York, U.S.
EducationBrown University (BA)
Tufts University (MA)

Roberta S. Jacobson (born April 14, 1960) is an American diplomat who was the United States Ambassador to Mexico from June 2016 to May 2018.[1] She previously served as the Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs from March 30, 2012, to May 5, 2016. The United States Senate approved her nomination as U.S. Ambassador to Mexico on April 28, 2016. In March 2018, Jacobson announced her resignation effective May 5.[2] Foreign Policy reported on January 18, 2021 that Jacobson would be in charge of Mexico–United States border affairs at the National Security Council under President Joe Biden.[3]

Early life and education[edit]

Born Roberta Ann Steinfeld, she was raised in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey.[4] Her father, Julian, was an electrical engineer who was the vice president of Mid-Island Electric Supply in Plainview, New York and her mother, Gloria, was a teacher and the supervisor of family and neighborhood counseling for the Bergen County Department of Health Services.[4][5] Her parents were both active in the local community, with her mother serving on the board of education as its president and her father appointed to serve on the municipality's board of adjustment. She graduated from Dwight Morrow High School.[5]

She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree at Brown University, then spent 1982 through 1984 at the United Nations Center for Social Development and Humanitarian Affairs.[6] She earned her Master of Arts degree in law and diplomacy at Tufts University Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy in 1986.[6]


Early career[edit]

Official State Department portrait

In 1988, she worked at the United States National Security Council.[6] The next year, she joined the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs in the United States Department of State as special assistant to the assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, becoming executive assistant to the assistant secretary in 1992.[6] She also served as coordinator for Cuban affairs.[6] From 1996 to 2000, she was director of the Office of Policy Planning and Coordination at the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, covering issues such as civil-military relations, human rights, foreign assistance, and counter-narcotics throughout the hemisphere.[6]

From 2000 to 2002, she was deputy chief of mission in the United States Embassy in Peru.[6] The American Foreign Service Association, which represents the interests of career diplomats, objected to her appointment because the post is normally reserved for a foreign service officer and she was a civil service employee. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright overrode the recommendation of a State Department grievance board that recommended Jacobson be reassigned. The U.S. ambassador to Peru, John Hamilton, had chosen Jacobson over several career diplomats. He defended her selection in November 2000 saying: "She is the best manager I've come across in my 31 years in the Foreign Service".[7]

Jacobson was director of the State Department's Office of Mexican Affairs from December 2002 to June 2007.[6] At that point, she became deputy assistant secretary for Canada, Mexico and NAFTA issues in the Bureau.[6] She was Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs from December 2010 until July 2011, with responsibility for regional political and economic issues, management and personnel, and regional security issues.[6]

Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs[edit]

When Arturo Valenzuela left the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, she became acting assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs.[6] U.S. President Barack Obama named her assistant secretary of state and she was sworn into office on March 30, 2012.[6]

Jacobson led a U.S. delegation to Havana for historic talks with the government of Cuba in January 2015. According to advance media reports, she was expected to press Cuba to drop travel restrictions on American diplomats and propose that Cuba and the United States establish an embassy in Washington and Havana respectively.[8]

U.S. Ambassador to Mexico[edit]

On November 10, 2015, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved Obama's nomination of Jacobson as the U.S. ambassador to Mexico by a vote of 12–7. Opposition to her appointment came primarily from the Republicans on the committee, notably presidential candidate Senator Marco Rubio. He and six other Republican senators, along with Democratic Senator Robert Menendez, raised concerns about her position on normalisation of relations between Cuba and the U.S., human rights issues, and the failed extradition of Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán, who had escaped Mexico's highest security prison in July 2015.[9]

The United States Senate approved her appointment to be U.S. Ambassador to Mexico on April 28, 2016.[10] She presented her credentials to Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto on June 20, 2016.[11] On March 1, 2018, Jacobson filed her notice of resignation, effective May 5, 2018.[12]

In November 2020, Jacobson was named a volunteer member of the Joe Biden presidential transition Agency Review Team to support transition efforts related to the United States Department of State.[13]

Biden administration[edit]

After Joe Biden assumed office as president, Jacobson was selected to manage the administration's response to a growing number of migrants attempting to enter the country at the Mexico–United States border. Jacobson was scheduled to remain in her role for Biden's first 100 days in office, but announced her resignation on April 9, 2021.[14] Jacobson now serves as Senior Advisor at Albright Stonebridge Group.[15]

Personal life[edit]

Jacobson is married to Jonathan Jacobson.[4] They live with their two sons in Potomac, Maryland. She is Jewish.[16][17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Roberta Jacobson leaves Mexico and retires after 30-year State Career
  2. ^ Toosi, Nahal (March 1, 2018). "U.S. ambassador to Mexico stepping down". Politico.
  3. ^ "La exembajadora Roberta Jacobson se hará cargo de la frontera con México: Foreign Policy". (in Spanish). Proceso. January 18, 2021. Retrieved January 18, 2021.
  4. ^ a b c "Roberta Ann Steinfeld Weds Jonathan V. Jacobson". The New York Times. December 30, 1985. Retrieved February 6, 2017.
  5. ^ a b Jackson, Herb (December 7, 2015). "'Jersey girl' stuck in limbo for Mexico ambassador post". The Record (Bergen County). Retrieved December 7, 2015. "Jacobson, the former Roberta Steinfeld, grew up in Englewood Cliffs and graduated from Dwight Morrow High School. Her dad was an electrical engineer who once headed the borough Board of Adjustment, and her mom, a former teacher, was school board president at one point."
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Biography: Roberta S. Jacobson". United States Department of State. Archived from the original on October 12, 2012.
  7. ^ "Albright move angers some career diplomats". Amarillo Globe-News. Associated Press. December 2, 2000. Retrieved May 1, 2016.
  8. ^ "U.S. wants end to travel curbs, set up embassy in Cuba talks". Reuters. January 19, 2015. Retrieved January 20, 2015.
  9. ^ "After delay, U.S. Senate approves nominee to be ambassador to Mexico". Reuters. November 10, 2015. Retrieved November 18, 2015.
  10. ^ Severns, Maggie (April 28, 2016). "Roberta Jacobson confirmed as U.S. ambassador to Mexico". Politico. Retrieved April 28, 2016.
  11. ^ "Remarks by Ambassador Roberta S. Jacobson after Presenting her Letters of Credence to Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto". United States Embassy in Mexico City. June 20, 2016. Archived from the original on March 31, 2021. Retrieved June 21, 2016.
  12. ^ Ahmed, Azam (March 1, 2018). "U.S. Ambassador to Mexico to Quit Amid Tense Relations Under Trump". The New York Times. Retrieved March 8, 2018.
  13. ^ "Agency Review Teams". President-Elect Joe Biden. Retrieved 10 November 2020.
  14. ^ Shear, Michael D.; Kanno-Youngs, Zolan; Rogers, Katie (2021-04-09). "White House Border Coordinator to Step Down". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2021-04-10.
  15. ^ "News | Albright Stonebridge Group". Retrieved 2022-07-13.
  16. ^ "Senate confirms Jacobson as envoy to Mexico". San Diego Jewish World. April 28, 2016. Retrieved May 5, 2016.
  17. ^ "Jewish Insider's Daily Kickoff: April 13, 2018". Haaretz. April 13, 2018.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs
Acting: 2011–2012
Succeeded by
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by United States Ambassador to Mexico
Succeeded by