WASHINGTON — Acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Tony Pham will step down from the position at the end of this year less than five months into his tenure at the agency.
Pham, who was appointed to the post by President Donald Trump in August of this year, said in a statement obtained by Spectrum News that he is “grateful” for his time serving the administration, adding he was stepping down in order 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," the statement read in part.
"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," Pham continued. "However, at the end of the year, I will be returning home to Richmond, Va. to be closer to my family.”
The planned departure will come less than five months after Pham was tapped to succeed former ICE head Matthew Albence. Upon assuming the role of ICE’s senior-most law enforcement official, Pham led day-to-day operations and oversaw the agency’s 20,000 plus employees.
Soon after Pham took control of the agency, ICE conducted Operation Rise in California, resulting in the arrest of 128 illegal immigrants across the state. The operation targeted sanctuary cities, or jurisdictions where local law enforcement is limited in their cooperation with federal immigration efforts.
Sanctuary cities are a hotly-debated topic between Democrats and Republicans, and PResident Trump has frequently voiced his disdain for cities that offer illegal immigrants safe harbor. And while President-elect Joe Biden has pledged to undo many of Trump’s actions surrounding immigration — including creating a pathway to citizenship and protecting DACA recipients — he has made no indication on his plans for sanctuary cities one way or another.
According to Pham’s bio, the outgoing ICE director was born in Saigon and came to the United States as a refugee in the 1970s. Pham became an official U.S. citizen ten years later in 1985, his bio continued.
“When we came to this nation seeking hope and opportunity as refugees, I signed a promissory note to America. I owe a debt for my freedoms and opportunities which must be repaid,” Pham’s bio reads. “I do so by committing to my community as a dutiful citizen and to pass along my experiences and opportunities to serve those around me.”
Before joining the agency as a prosecutor, Pham worked as an attorney for local government officials in Virginia. He later went on to serve as the superintendent at the Virginia Peninsula Regional Jail.