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Top Leaders of ICE and DHS Set to Retire At the End of June

Two senior officials under the U.S. Department of Homeland Security are set to retire at the end of this month: Tae Johnson, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s acting chief, and Raul Ortiz, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection chief. 

Johnson joined ICE on January 13, 2021, near the end of former President Donald Trump’s administration, after multiple directors stepped down. The previous ICE acting chief Jonathan Fahey retired after the January 6th Capitol riot. Fahey had spent just 13 days on the job.

Since 2017, nine acting ICE directors have been appointed and either stepped down, resigned, retired, or were dismissed. 

Acting directors are appointed to temporarily fill a role before a President’s nominee for the role receives a Senate confirmation. 

Seventeen people have led ICE since the agency was formed in 2003. However, only four of them were Senate-confirmed appointees, and all served during the administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Others were acting directors.

Earlier this year, the Government Accountability Office noted that Johnson’s tenure had exceeded the appropriate duration in his role as “acting” director, which is a violation of the Vacancies Reform Act.

In 2021, President Biden nominated Texas’ Harris County sheriff, Ed Gonzalez, to be the ICE director. But in June 2022, after the Senate failed to make progress on his nomination by voting for or against it, Gonzalez withdrew himself from consideration. 

The Department of Homeland Security has yet to announce who will be the next acting director. DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Monday commended Tae Johnson for more than 31 years of service to ICE, the department, and the nation, adding that he has “personally benefited from his frank assessments, solid judgment and his deep expertise drawn from decades of experience.” 

“Mr. Johnson has been an integral member of ICE’s leadership team through multiple administrations,” Mayorkas statement also noted. “Most recently, Mr. Johnson led ICE’s successful planning and execution during the transition from the Title 42 public health order to the enforcement of our nation’s immigration laws.”

U.S. Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz also served for more than three decades. He wrote a letter to Border Patrol employees last month about his decision to retire from federal service after a 32-year Border Patrol career. He became Chief of the agency in August 2021, even though he had already been planning to retire before then. 

Mayorkas released a statement on Ortiz’ retirement, saying “convincing him to remain in service and selecting him to lead the Border Patrol was among the most important decisions I have made. Chief Ortiz agreed to postpone his retirement several times since and the Border Patrol, the Department, and our country have been all the better for it.” He commended him for managing the transition out of Title 42 and into the enforcement of Title 8 of the United States Code, among other things.

The department also has yet to announce who will take over when Ortiz’s retirement kicks off.

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