July 1 (UPI) — U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has a new acting director, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said Saturday.
Ronald D. Vitiello, who was serving as acting deputy commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, began his post Saturday. He will serve as deputy director and acting director of ICE, Nielsen said in a statement.
Vitiello replaces Thomas Homan, who announced in May he would be retiring. Homan has served as acting ICE director since January 30, 2017, when he replaced Daniel Ragsdale in the post. Ragsdale was Trump’s first ICE chief but was dismissed after only 10 days.
The new director, who began his career in Laredo, Texas, has more than 30 years of experience working in law enforcement.
“Deputy Commissioner Vitiello brings to ICE the vision and leadership needed to continue the exceptional work the agency is doing to accomplish its crucial national security and public safety missions,” Nielsen said. “I am pleased that ICE will continue to be led by an experienced and well-respected career law enforcement officer who will be a strong advocate for the agency’s workforce.”
ICE’s new leader takes over during a crucial time as the agency is under scrutiny for enforcing President Donald Trump‘s “zero-tolerance” policies at the southern border, sparking nationwide protests Saturday.
On Friday, Homan blamed Congress for the family separations on the U.S.-Mexico border.
“We are enforcing the laws that [Congress] enacted and they want to vilify us for doing it,” Homan told the Fox News Channel Friday in response to a suggestion by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., that ICE should be abolished and replaced, a concept that’s gaining momentum.
ICE, a division of the Department of Health and Human Services, has been controversial since “sanctuary cities” have been uncooperative in arresting illegal immigrants and aiding federal agents in removal proceedings.
In May, the agency came under greater fire when U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said his department plans to prosecute “100 percent” of all migrants apprehended at the border, including first-time illegal entrants who arrived with children.