Ronald Vitiello, acting director of U.S. Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE), announced Wednesday that he will leave his post effective Friday, becoming the latest in a string of top-level officials to resign from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
The recent departures leave DHS in a state of disrepair just months before apprehensions on the southern border are expected to reach their yearly peak. According to CBP data, apprehensions historically reach their apex in May.
Vitiello’s resignation comes one week after President Donald Trump pulled his consideration for ICE director, reportedly because senior adviser Stephen Miller believed Vitiello was not tough enough on immigration enforcement.
“I would also like to express my deep thanks and gratitude for the opportunity to serve with our incredible workforce,” Vitiello wrote to employees in an email first reported by POLITICO.
“The critical work we do is essential to the safety and security of the nation,” he added, “and none do it with greater pride and determination than the men and women of ICE.”
The agency has not announced a successor, though acting deputy director Matthew Albence, who likened immigration detention to “summer camp,” would theoretically be next in line.
News of Vitiello’s departure was preceded by three big-name resignations within DHS, including outgoing agency Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, Secret Service Director Randolph Alles, and John Mitnik, the agency’s general counsel. Other top DHS officials, including U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Francis Cissna, are rumored to be on their way out, also because of Miller’s preference for immigration hardliners within the administration.
Miller, who has a history of using anti-immigrant and white supremacist dog-whistles, is said to be gaining more prominence within the White House. Trump and Miller are reportedly thinking of implementing harsher asylum rules and are pushing for family separations to resume.
Unlike his predecessor, Thomas Homan, Vitiello largely remained out of the spotlight during his DHS tenure. Homan, who retired last summer, was a favorite of the Trump administration, frequently making the rounds on Fox News and other cable news networks defending the president. Homan refused to label Trump’s family separation policy inhumane and invoked the Nazi Germany-era “Nuremberg defense,” saying ICE officials were simply following orders when conducting separations at the border last spring.
Vitiello’s failure to defend the Trump administration’s immigration policies with the same fervor as Homan may have been his downfall.
Presently, there are no Senate-confirmed officials in seven top positions within DHS including inspector general, deputy secretary, or FEMA administrator, in addition to those mentioned above.
The number of open positions at DHS is emblematic of Trump’s patchwork cabinet, which is full of acting directors and acting secretaries after a wave of resignations and firings.