President Donald Trump on Monday quietly replaced the acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, an arm of the Department of Homeland Security, following a chaotic weekend during which DHS customs officials struggled to interpret and comply with Trump’s controversial executive order barring travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries.
In a statement released late Monday evening, the newly confirmed DHS secretary, John Kelly, announced that Thomas Homan had been named the new acting director of ICE. The statement did not mention Daniel Ragsdale, who was being replaced. (Ragsdale resumes his role as deputy director, according to an ICE official.)
The announcement from DHS capped off a night of political drama that began when acting Attorney General Sally Yates announced that she would not direct the Justice Department to enforce Trump’s executive order on immigration.
Within hours, the Trump administration issued a scathing White House statement announcing that Yates had been replaced and accusing her of having “betrayed” the Justice Department. Yates’ replacement, Dana Boente, has promised to enforce the executive order, which also suspends the admittance of Syrian refugees indefinitely.
The executive order unleashed chaos at U.S. airports as customs officials struggled to determine who should be allowed to enter the United States and who shouldn’t. It also sparked scores of protests around the globe and garnered harsh opposition from elected officials across the political spectrum.
By promoting Homan, who most recently led the arm of ICE that enforces detentions and deportations, the Trump administration signaled its intent to place a greater emphasis on the harsh enforcement measures that Homan carried out.
As the associate director of ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO), Homan “led ICE’s efforts to identify, arrest, detain, and remove illegal aliens, including those who present a danger to national security or are a risk to public safety, as well as those who enter the United States illegally or otherwise undermine the integrity of our immigration laws and our border control efforts,” the DHS statement read.
Homan’s appointment also raises the possibility that Trump might attempt to carry out a campaign promise to deport many of the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States. The Trump administration previously said that it will initially focus deportation efforts on immigrants convicted of violent crimes.
“I am confident that [Homan] will continue to serve as a strong, effective leader for the men and women of ICE,” Kelly said in the statement. “I look forward to working alongside him to ensure that we enforce our immigration laws in the interior of the United States consistent with the national interest.”
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