Following Tony Pham’s short tenure as the acting director of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), his successor has quit after just two weeks in the role. ICE press secretary, Jenny Burke, confirmed Jonathan Fahey’s resignation with The Hill news site but gave no explanation for his leaving.
Fahey is the latest Trump administration official to step down from his role and comes just two days after the resignation of Chad Wolf as the acting secretary of the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The previous head of ICE, Vietnamese immigrant Tony Pham, was seen as a controversial appointment to the post.
Under intense pressure from the Vietnamese community and officials, Pham stepped down from the ICE hot seat at the end of 2020 having only taken the role in August of the same year.
White House haemorrhaging staff
In the wake of the shocking events at the Capitol building earlier this month, which saw a mob of pro-Trump supporters storm the US landmark, and Trump’s failure to acknowledge defeat following the US elections in November 2020, the White House has been haemorrhaging staff as they turn on the beleaguered outgoing President.
Other senior members of the administration who have recently quit include Elaine Chao, the transportation secretary, and Betsy DeVos, the Education Secretary.
Under the Trump administration, ICE has had six directors, all of which have served on an acting basis having never received Senate confirmation.
The raft of changes at the DHS, which oversees ICE and US Customs and Border Protection among other government departments, has raised concerns over potential security risks at the inauguration of Joe Biden on the steps of the Capitol on January 20.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has warned of the potential for armed protests across the country.
Political appointee Jonathan Fahey had previously served as the principal legal adviser at ICE, overseeing the US immigration agency’s legal portfolio. He took the head of ICE post on 31 December.
While no reason was given for Fahey’s departure, a spokesperson for ICE said that the agency’s deputy director, Tae Johnson, will step into the acting director role for the short-term.
Chad Wolf’s departure from the DHS was largely driven by scrutiny over the lawfulness of his position as acting secretary of the agency, with several federal judges ruling that his appointment was unlawful.
Commenting on those rulings, Wolf said: “As I talked with the attorneys, and we’ve talked with the Department of Justice and others, there was no light at the end of the tunnel, there was no avenue to really fight this.”
Following Wolf’s exit, it was announced that Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator, Pete Gaynor, would fill the position of acting DHS secretary and now has less than a week to coordinate security for Biden’s inauguration.
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