Immigrant ICE leader, Tony Pham, is set to resign from his post after just five months in the role. Pham, a refugee from Vietnam, was seen as a controversial appointment to lead ICE, particularly among the Vietnamese community in the USA. Pham was appointed to the post in July, following the departure of Matt Albence.
In October, Workpermit.com reported that Pham’s family home had been targeted by activist group, VietLead, the leader of which was arrested and charged for dumping trash on Pham’s property.
The acting leader of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), who recently oversaw the erection of billboards along highways in Pennsylvania featuring the faces of wanted immigrants, plans to step down from his role at the end of 2020.
ICE leaders come and go
Under the Trump administration, the head of ICE post has seen many acting directors come and go, one of whom was Mark Morgan who is now the acting head of Customs and Border Protection. However, none of the acting directors have ever been confirmed by the US Senate.
Announcing his decision to step down, Pham told BuzzFeed News: “I am grateful for the Trump Administration for providing me the single highest honor of my career in serving my adopted country as both the Principal Legal Advisor and the Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Director at US Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
“Leading a law enforcement agency with such a committed workforce has been the honor of a lifetime. I have gotten to meet with many extraordinary employees across the United States.”
“I will continue to be that tireless advocate for the hard working men and women at ICE. However, at the end of the year, I will be returning home to Richmond, VA to be closer to my family,” Pham added.
Despite just five months in the role, Pham’s tenure has been shrouded in controversy. Most notably, the installation of black and red billboards along highways heading into the swing state of Pennsylvania displaying the face of ‘at large immigrant violators’, was heavily criticized.
Current and former ICE officials described the billboards as ‘politically motivated.’
Pham and other Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials came under more fire when holding news conferences in swing states announcing the results of other regional operations in the build up to the US election, which Trump ultimately lost.
Following the election, the DHS continued to grip the media’s attention by announcing that more than 150 immigrants across the United States had been detained by ICE as part of an operation targeting those who had agreed to leave, but failed to do so.
On Pham’s watch, several ICE detainment facilities have failed to contain the spread of coronavirus, resulting in the death of many detainees. Meanwhile, in October, ICE officials started to implement a policy that gave agents the power to rapidly deport immigrants who had been in the US for less than two years.
Pham instructed agents to complete a training course by October 16, which would allow them to use their new authority.
Pham a refugee
Pham, formerly a top lawyer at ICE, arrived in the US as a young boy in 1975. Ten years after his arrival, he and his family were confirmed as US citizens. Pham has always maintained that he and his family followed a lawful path to US citizenship.
The US refugee program has been gutted under the Trump administration, with the number allowed to come to the US in 2020 reduced from 18,000, down from the 110,000 permitted by the Obama administration.
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