Trump withdraws nomination to lead ICE

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President Trump on Thursday withdrew his nominee to lead U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

The White House sent paperwork to Congress withdrawing Ron Vitiello, the agency’s current acting director, as Trump’s nominee to permanently lead the agency.

“We’re going in a little different direction,” President Trump said Friday about the decision. “Ron’s a good man, but we’re going in a tougher direction.”

{mosads}Vitiello previously served as the head of the agency’s Border Patrol division and as deputy commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection. He was named acting head of ICE last June as the Trump administration faced scrutiny over its “zero tolerance” policy and the separation of migrant families at the U.S.-Mexico border.

The withdrawal of his nomination comes as officials say they are facing an influx of apprehensions of migrant families crossing the U.S.-Mexico border illegally, a surge that has strained the Trump administration’s resources and caused officials to release hundreds of migrants at a time from detention facilities in Arizona and Texas.

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) chief Kevin McAleenan said last week that his agency has reached a “breaking point” in terms of overcrowding at migrant detention facilities.

“For the first time in over a decade, CBP is performing direct releases of migrants when ICE is unable to provide bed space to relieve overcrowding,” McAleenan said. 

“We are doing everything we can to simply avoid a tragedy in a CBP facility,” he added. “But with these numbers, with the types of illnesses we’re seeing at the border, I fear that it’s just a matter of time.”

Trump has threatened to close the U.S.-Mexico border over the ongoing crisis, and has demanded that Mexican authorities do more to prevent the flow of migration north towards the U.S.

“So Mexico, I have to say, has been very, very good over the last four days since I talked about shutting down the border. If they continue that everything will be fine. If they don’t, we’re going to tariff their cars at 25 percent coming into the United States,” Trump told reporters on Friday. “If on the other hand it doesn’t work, which it will 100 percent, the tariffs will work, just like they did with steel.”

The withdrawal of Vitiello’s nomination caught lawmakers and some officials at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) off-guard, according to the Associated Press, which first reported the news.

One official at DHS reportedly told the AP that the withdrawal of Vitiello’s nomination had been a clerical error, while other officials said that the withdrawal was final.

A spokesman for the agency didn’t immediately return a request for comment from The Hill on Friday.

Updated at 10:34 a.m.

Brett Samuels contributed.

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