Aug 25, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Tony Pham tapped as acting head of ICE

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement building in D.C. with a DHS flag flying out front

Immigration and Customs Enforcement headquarters in D.C. Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) top legal adviser Tony Pham will be the agency's next top official, after current acting director Matthew Albence retires, according to an email sent to Department of Homeland Security employees Tuesday.

Between the lines: Pham and his family came to the U.S. as Vietnamese refugees in 1975 and became citizens 10 years later, according to his bio on DHS' website.

  • "As Tony has been a trailblazer in the field of law and corrections, I am confident he will successfully lead the men and women of ICE in their mission to keep our borders safe and protect Americans," DHS acting deputy secretary Ken Cuccinelli wrote in the email.
  • Albence announced his retirement at the end of last month.

The big picture: The announcement of ICE's new leadership comes the same day that President Trump announced he would nominate acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf to lead the agency permanently.

  • DHS has struggled with permanent leadership under Trump, and its agencies have been through several shake-ups.
  • ICE is tasked with immigration enforcement inside the U.S., rather than at the borders, and oversees the country's immigration detention centers.
  • It has become one of the most controversial government agencies, with some immigration activists and progressives calling for ICE to be "abolished" altogether.

What they're saying: "As a seasoned leader with DHS Tony will ensure ICE continues to safeguard our country’s borders from crime and illegal immigration," an ICE spokesperson said.

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