The acting commissioner for Customs and Border Protection, John Sanders, announced Tuesday that he would be stepping down in the coming weeks, after being in the position for barely two months.
Sanders’ resignation, effective July 5, comes amid increased furor over reports of horrific conditions migrant children are being forced to endure inside detention facilities at the southern border.
According to The New York Times, it is unclear whether Sanders’ resignation is tied to the outcry over CBP’s treatment of detained migrants.
“I will leave it to you to determine whether I was successful,” Sanders wrote in a letter to agency employees. “I can unequivocally say that helping support the amazing men and women of CBP has been the most fulfilling and satisfying opportunity of my career.”
“People embraced and welcomed me in a way that was new to me — in a way that was truly special,” Sanders added. “To this day, I get choked up when speaking about it and I can’t adequately express my thanks.”
Sanders took up the position of acting CBP commissioner after former commissioner Kevin McAleenan was moved to the role of acting Department of Homeland Security secretary. McAleenan was installed in that role after former DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen resigned from the position in April.
At the time of Nielsen’s departure, President Donald Trump promised to replace her with someone who has even more hardline immigration stances, however he has yet to do so, adding instead to the number of acting cabinet officials who are not in their position permanently.
Sanders’ abrupt resignation comes just days after a team of lawyers, doctors, and advocates visited a CBP border detention center in Clint, Texas. There, they said they found an overcrowded facility where migrant children did not have regular access to showers, clothes, toothbrushes, and beds, and were unable to contact their family members. Many of the children were sleeping on cold, concrete floors and eating unhealthy or uncooked food.
On Monday, it was reported that 249 of the children had been transferred to a shelter run by the Department of Health and Human Services, following outcry.
The Trump administration has faced intense criticism in the past over its treatment of migrants, specifically immigrant children. Among other things, it has been accused of housing minors in facilities with horrific histories of abuse or neglect, and last spring was excoriated for implementing — and then repeatedly lying about — an extreme family separation policy, taking children as young as a few months old from their parents without documenting their whereabouts properly. In some cases, parents were deported after being pressured to give up custody of their children, in a language they did not fully understand.
Trump has repeatedly blamed Democrats for the ongoing saga at the border. However, it is the Trump administration’s policies that have created a confusing mess wherein migrants — who have a legal right to apply for asylum — are bounced back to Mexico with court dates in the United States they cannot legally attend.
Trump, meanwhile, is still mulling over his threat to have Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) round up millions of “illegal aliens who have illicitly found their way into the United States,” unless Congress comes up with a border strategy. The president initially tweeted the news from his personal account, surprising ICE officials who said such a decision would put officer safety at risk.