The acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement is stepping down at the end of the week, further disrupting the leadership at the Department of Homeland Security. Ron Vitiello was nominated to become the permanent director of the agency until Trump told him that he was pulling the nomination because he wanted to go in a “tougher” direction, according to CNN.
Vitiello was poised to be confirmed by the Senate for the role as head of the agency, but last Friday, Trump announced that he wanted to nominate someone else, reportedly at the urging of White House senior adviser Stephen Miller. When asked by Vitiello’s nomination had been withdrawn, Trump responded that he wanted to point things in a different direction.
“We’re going in a little different direction. Ron’s a good man but we’re going in a tougher direction. We want to go in a tougher direction,” Trump told reporters.
As a result, Vitiello announced that he would be leaving his current position at the end of the week.
“I am writing to let you know that Friday, April 12, 2019, will be my last day as Acting Director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). I would also like to express my deep thanks and gratitude for the opportunity to serve with our incredible workforce,” Vitiello told his employees.
"Ron Vitiello has spent as much time defending our nation's borders as Stephen Miller has been alive." https://t.co/TwdRTM2eUD— David Gura (@davidgura) April 5, 2019
The announcement was a surprise to many and only contributes to the uncertainty that is plaguing the Department of Homeland Security.
The leader of DHS, Kirstjen Nielsen, announced that she was resigning her position on Sunday. The New York Times reported that the move came after she and Trump had allegedly clashed repeatedly over his hard-line stance on immigration. Nielsen reportedly planned to have a meeting with Trump in order to discuss her role at the agency, but the 30-minute meeting didn’t go as planned. Instead, at the end of the meeting, Trump requested her resignation and she submitted it.
On Tuesday, Clare Grady, the acting deputy of Homeland Security, was also announced to be leaving her role. Grady was next in line to become the acting secretary, but she decided to offer her resignation to Trump, effective Wednesday.
The two resignations leave the department without a clear order of succession. Reportedly, Grady knew that her fate was tied with Nielsen, so her resignation isn’t surprising. However, the changes leave some worried that the country’s second-largest national security agency is floundering without an experienced leader, particularly given Trump’s claim that there is a national emergency happening at the border.