The latest acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has quit after just two weeks on the job, BuzzFeed News reports. Jonathan Fahey stepped in following the resignation of Tony Pham last month, another acting director who served a short tenure (though not as short as Fahey, at five months).
If you didn’t know Fahey’s name, don’t feel bad, because agency employees apparently don’t either (or maybe just don’t care). “We haven’t been bothering to learn the names of the political appointees for months now, anticipating that they will all be short-term,” an unnamed ICE official told BuzzFeed News’ Hamed Aleaziz. In fact, Aleaziz tweeted that “many” ICE employees learned Fahey was out through his article.
Aleaziz reports that the out-of-control agency has now seen six leaders come and go since the start of twice-impeached Donald Trump’s presidency, none of them ever confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Let’s go over that one more time: since 2017, not one ICE director has been approved by the Senate. To find the last ICE director to be confirmed by senators, you’d have to go all the way back to the Obama administration.
“It’s unclear whether Fahey’s resignation is tied to the administration’s reaction to the violent mob that took over the US Capitol last week,” Aleaziz reported. ICE’s leadership homepage currently lists Tae D. Johnson as both the “Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Director”—a made-up title the administration has used to try to evade rules—and deputy director:
While Pham’s tenure was just a five short months, he oversaw some of the most horrific actions carried out by the agency under the outgoing administration.
Under his watch, ICE put up Nazi-style billboards in the swing state of Pennsylvania, a propaganda campaign with the clear purpose to aid impeached Trump’s reelection. The end of the 2020 fiscal year amid Pham’s tenure also marked ICE’s deadliest year since 2005. Even as COVID-19 accounted for significant number of these in-custody deaths, ICE refused to release children from their jails.
President-elect Joe Biden’s immigration plan during his campaign said that “[u]nder a Biden administration, there will be responsible, Senate-confirmed professionals leading these agencies, and they will answer directly to the president.” Just as the Trump administration used the full powers of the executive to harm, a Biden administration must use the full powers of the executive branch—and the incoming Democratic Congress—to hold agencies that carried out abuses with impunity accountable.
“Our border militarization and immigration enforcement machinery is overfunded, unaccountable, and increasingly lawless,” American Civil Liberties Union federal immigration policy counsel Madhuri Grewal wrote last month. “It is this vast, ‘formidable machinery’ that Trump has stretched to its limits, but the issue predates Trump. The last four years under Trump have highlighted how cruel and unjust our immigration system can be—but also demonstrated the significant discretion the executive branch can exercise.”
“There is a real opportunity and political will to reimagine our country’s approach to immigration: shifting from a detention and deportation-obsessed approach to one that is rooted in fundamental due process and human rights,” Grewal continued.