The acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Ron Vitiello, has resigned amid an agency wide restructuring of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
Vitiello had originally been nominated to take over the post permanently, but his nomination was abruptly pulled last week by President Trump, who said he wanted to go in a "tougher" direction.
Outgoing Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen announced the news of Vitiello's departure on Wednesday, praising his "knowledge and expertise as a seasoned law enforcement professional."
Nielsen said in a statement that Vitiello "has left a legacy of excellence as our Department has expanded and refined our efforts to curb illegal immigration and secure our borders."
Vitiello's last day at ICE will be Friday. Nielsen, whose own departure from the helm of DHS was announced over the weekend, is leaving Wednesday.
The moves come amid a White House shake-up affecting virtually all senior leadership at DHS that has seen the exit this week of Nielsen, Vitiello, Secret Service Director Randolph "Tex" Alles and acting Deputy Homeland Security Secretary Claire Grady.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director Lee Francis Cissna, USCIS policy and strategy head Kathy Nuebel Kovarik and General Counsel John Mitnick are also reportedly due to resign.
A number of lawmakers from both parties have pushed back on plans to oust senior officials, while even some Trump allies on immigration have expressed concerns that the shake-up may be going too far.
Andrew Arthur, a research fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies, a think tank that favors reduced immigration, wrote that "these moves raise the question whether the president is irrationally looking for scapegoats on whom to blame for [the border] situation."
"[Trump] must reject purported efforts to remove U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director Francis Cissna," Arthur wrote this week.
The lone survivor at the top of DHS so far is incoming acting Secretary Kevin McAleenan, who until Wednesday served as Customs and Border Protection (CBP) commissioner.
Vitiello, a former Border Patrol chief, served as McAleenan's deputy at CBP from 2017 to 2018, before moving on to head ICE in an acting capacity.
With Vitiello's resignation, almost all senior Obama-era border and immigration holdovers are now out at the department.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) told The Washington Post on Monday that Trump is "pulling the rug out from the very people" working to accomplish his agenda on immigration.
"The president has to have some stability and particularly with the number one issue that he’s made for his campaign, throughout his two and a half years of presidency," Grassley said.
The shake-up has also drawn attention to White House adviser Stephen Miller, a key voice within the administration on immigration issues who is seen as a driving force on pushing the president's agenda concerning the border.
Senate Republicans have openly warned in recent days of Miller's outsize influence in the DHS decisionmaking process in the wake of recent departures at the agency.
“I hope that [Trump's] got more voices than that one in his ear on these issues, because, yeah, I think it’s important that he get a whole perspective and range of opinions,” said Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.).
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