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Trump nominates new ICE director

Ronald Vitiello, acting deputy commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection testifies before the House Homeland Security Committee's Border and Marine Security subcommittee on Capitol Hill on May 22, 2018 in Washington, DC. Republican House members are calling for reform to asylum processes. (Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Monday formally nominated the acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Ronald Vitiello, to hold the position permanently.

Vitiello was made the deputy director of ICE in late June. When he took on that role, he also became the acting director because Director Tom Homan was retiring.

The official nomination is not surprising. When Vitiello was named acting director, his career position with the department was also transferred from Customs and Border Protection to ICE, making him the top career official at ICE. That transfer allows him to remain in the position of acting director legally even while nominated.

Vitiello takes the helm at ICE at a time when it has become the symbolic center of the political firestorm over Trump’s aggressive immigration agenda.

Some Democrats have begun to embrace “abolish ICE” as a way to attack Trump’s policies, while the President has used it as a wedge issue to please his base.

“Democrats want Open Borders and they want to abolish ICE, the brave men and women that are protecting our Country from some of the most vicious and dangerous people on earth! Sorry, we can’t let that happen! Also, change the rules in the Senate and approve STRONG Border Security!” Trump tweeted Monday shortly after Vitiello’s nomination was announced. Trump did not mention Vitiello.

ICE is the primary agency that arrests and deports undocumented immigrants in the US. The “abolish ICE” slogan has grown amid an international outcry over the administration’s separation of thousands of families at the southern border, though ICE has only a tangential role in that process. The separations were conducted by Customs and Border Protection so adults could be transferred to Department of Justice custody for prosecution.

In a statement, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen praised the nomination and asked the Senate to “quickly” confirm Vitiello.

“I am pleased that President Trump intends to nominate Ronald D. Vitiello to serve as the Director of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement,” Nielsen said. “Since assuming the role of Deputy Director in late June, he has made clear his commitment to support the men and women of ICE, and ensure they are well-positioned to meet the demands of their incredibly challenging jobs. Deputy Director Vitiello’s leadership experience, combined with the unique perspective that comes from more than 30 years in law enforcement, makes him especially qualified to hold this important position.”

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