Acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director Tony Pham is stepping down from the agency by the end of the year, having led a series of operations against illegal immigrants across the country since taking control in August.
Sources told Fox News on Friday that Pham is expected to resign by the end of the year, a move that Pham later confirmed in a statement.
“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 U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement,” he said.
“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,” he said. “However, at the end of the year, I will be returning home to Richmond, Va. to be closer to my family.”
Pham replaced Matt Albence as acting head of the enforcement agency in August and has since headed the agency in a number of operations targeting criminal illegal immigrants across the country — including in “sanctuary” cities that protect illegal immigrants from deportation.
Pham came to the U.S. as a refugee from Vietnam when he was 2 years old. In 1985, Pham became a U.S. citizen, before eventually going to law school and then becoming a prosecutor, handling narcotics, gang and firearms cases. He would also serve as superintendent of a jail in Virginia.
Acting ICE Director Tony Pham.
In January 2020, he became the ICE principal legal advisor, before replacing Albence in August.
In an interview with Fox News in October, he spoke about his dramatic journey to the country as a boy.
“On April 19, 1975, my mother grabbed her three children — me included, luckily — and worked her way to Tan Son Nhat airport,” Pham said.
“She was armed with a boarding letter written by a nice gentleman named John Edwards, who I was so glad to meet when I was 10 years old. But based on that letter she was able to get a seat on the flight out of Saigon that day on April 19 and — as folks would know, on April 30 Saigon fell, marking the end of the Vietnam War.”
Within weeks of Pham being appointed, ICE conducted operations in California that saw 128 illegal immigrants detained — 96% of those arrested had convictions or pending charges for crimes, including homicide, sexual assault, sexual offenses against children, weapons offenses and domestic violence.
It’s one of a number of operations that focused on targeting criminal illegal immigrants, as well as sanctuary cities — where local law enforcement are barred or limited from responding to ICE detainers.
Pham told Fox that his background as a refugee and a prosecutor pushed him toward immigration enforcement.
“I just felt that this was a nice synergy and a nice fit. … I wanted to be a part of the enforcement section of immigration because what I learned is when people cheat, or when they try to cheat the system, whether it’s immigration, or if it’s a school test or whether it’s the state bar exam, if they cheat they demean and diminish the lawful pathway — what my parents endured to become lawful citizens,” he said.
ICE has been a lightning rod for controversy under the Trump administration, particularly as the Democratic Party has broadly moved further left on the subject of how to deal with illegal immigration.
A number of Democratic presidential candidates, politicians and activists have called for ICE to be abolished entirely.
President-elect Joe Biden has not backed those calls, but has promised a significant change from the Trump administration’s approach, and has promised a 100- day moratorium on deportations by ICE.
This is a breaking news story, check back for updates.
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