WASHINGTON—President Donald Trump said he intends to replace Ron Vitiello, his nomination to lead Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), because the agency is “going in a little different direction.”
“Ron’s a good man. But we’re going in a tougher direction. We want to go in a tougher direction,” Trump said April 5.
Trump nominated Vitiello to the position after former Acting Director Tom Homan retired in June 2018.
Vitiello started as a Border Patrol agent in 1985 in Laredo, Texas. In 2017, he was named Border Patrol chief and then acting deputy commissioner of Customs and Border Protection. Carla Provost is now Border Patrol chief.
ICE is responsible for the deportation of illegal and criminal aliens, as well as conducting investigations including those related to illicit goods, child exploitation, gang activity, and immigration fraud. The latter is carried out by its Homeland Security Investigations arm.
Vitiello has operated more behind the scenes and is much less vocal about interior enforcement than Homan was during his tenure. Homan has called sanctuary cities his “pet peeve” and he took every opportunity to criticize them.
“When you release a public safety threat to the public, that is just foolish. It’s stupid,” Homan said in 2018. He also bore the brunt of a campaign to “abolish ICE,” which has turned into a rallying cry for several members of Congress and Democratic 2020 presidential hopefuls.
Under Homan’s leadership, deportations increased by 37 percent in fiscal year 2017, and fiscal 2018 deportations remained steady. Currently, around 1 million illegal immigrants who have been given a deportation order by a judge, are still in the country.
It’s possible that Trump will tap someone similar to Homan’s blunt and unapologetic style to lead the agency. The White House didn’t reply to a request seeking possible contenders. No timeline of Vitiello’s departure has been given.
ICE has more than 20,000 employees in more than 400 offices in the United States and 46 foreign countries, according to its website.