Top ICE lawyer Tony Pham to take over leading agency

Top ICE lawyer Tony Pham to take over leading agency
© OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images

The top Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) lawyer Tony Pham will take over to lead the agency, officials announced on Tuesday.

Pham has served as ICE’s principal legal adviser and now will replace acting ICE Director Matthew Albence. Pham, who entered the U.S. as a refugee from Saigon in 1975, will work as the senior official performing the duties of the director, an ICE spokesman told The Hill on Wednesday. 

“As a seasoned leader with DHS Tony will ensure ICE continues to safeguard our country's borders from crime and illegal immigration," the spokesman said in a statement. 

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The Washington Examiner first reported Pham will lead ICE on Tuesday.

Pham’s promotion comes amid an array of staff changes within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), including President TrumpDonald TrumpBaldwin calls Trump criticism following 'Rust' shooting 'surreal' Haley hits the stump in South Carolina Mary Trump files to dismiss Trump's lawsuit over NYT tax story MORE’s Tuesday announcement that he was nominating acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad WolfChad WolfAfter a year of blatant ethics violations, Congress must reform corruption laws Jan. 6 committee subpoenas Stephen Miller, Kayleigh McEnany Watchdog cites 13 Trump officials who violated Hatch Act before 2020 election MORE to become a permanent secretary. Wolf had served in an acting position for 10 months. 

DHS’s three immigration agencies have consistently been led by people in an acting position during Trump’s presidency, CNN reported

A senior Homeland Security official told CNN that Pham is "very much aligned with the current administration.” 

Pham joined ICE in January after previously working as the superintendent of the Virginia Peninsula Regional Jail and as a special assistant U.S. attorney, according to his bio.

He becomes the leader of the agency as ICE handles fewer immigrants in its custody than last year and faces criticism for its handling of COVID-19 within detention centers. 

Updated on Aug. 26 at 9:15 a.m.