Acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director Tony H. Pham will step down from office by the end of the year, citing personal reasons.
The Vietnamese American official replaced Matt Albence in the role in August, heading the enforcement agency in numerous operations that targeted illegal immigrants across the country — including “sanctuary” cities that supposedly protected them.
In early October, Pham oversaw the installation of billboards along highways in Pennsylvania that showed the faces of “at-large immigration violators who may pose a public safety threat.”
During Pham’s leadership, ICE also implemented a policy that allowed officers to arrest and deport undocumented immigrants who have stayed in the U.S. for less than two years.
Pham expressed gratitude to the Trump administration for giving him the “single highest honor” of his career. He will resign to be closer to his family.
“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,” Pham said in a statement.
“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, Virginia to be closer to my family.”
#ICYMI ICE, @DHSgov announce new Center for Countering Human Trafficking (CCHT) – an operation law enforcement center dedicated to providing a whole-of-government response to human trafficking and the importation of goods produced with forced labor. Learn more: pic.twitter.com/dH1osSpYGO
— ICE (@ICEgov) October 23, 2020
Pham arrived in the U.S. as a 2-year-old refugee in 1975. Ten years later, he and his family became Americans, saying that they had followed the “lawful path to citizenship.”
Pham attended law school and eventually became a prosecutor, handling gang, firearms and narcotics cases. He also worked as a jail superintendent in Virginia.
In January, Pham became the ICE principal legal advisor. He held the position until he replaced Albence in August.
Soon after his appointment, Pham led operations in California that led to the arrest of 128 illegal immigrants. Of those, 96% had convictions or pending charges for crimes such as homicide, sexual assault, sexual offenses against children, weapons offenses and domestic violence, according to Fox News.
ICE targets aliens who failed to depart US voluntarily in nationwide operation ‘Broken Promise’
“ICE takes seriously its obligation to enforce our nation’s immigration laws,” said Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Director Tony H. Pham. pic.twitter.com/vJDQUGuQO3
— ICE (@ICEgov) November 19, 2020
Pham’s operations have also received criticism. For one, current and former ICE officials, as well as legal experts, called the Pennsylvania billboards “politically motivated,” according to BuzzFeed News.
His leadership also struggled to contain COVID-19 in immigrant detention facilities. In the 2020 fiscal year, 21 died in ICE custody, more than a third of which tested positive for the coronavirus, according to CNN.