Matthew Albence has been selected the new director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a day after its previous leader abruptly announced his departure.
Acting ICE Director Ronald Vitiello announced Wednesday he would leave his post by the end of the week. In an email to staff on Thursday, reviewed by HuffPost, Vitiello named Albence as his replacement.
“Beginning tomorrow I will be out of the office, during which time Acting Deputy Director Matt Albence will be leading the agency,” he wrote.
Albence, who previously served as ICE’s executive associate director of enforcement and removal operations, is known for his hardline approach to immigration enforcement and often questionable comments about undocumented immigrants.
In an infamous July 2018 Senate testimony, Albence said migrant family detention centers were “more like summer camp.”
“With regard to [family residential centers,] the best way to describe them is more like a summer camp,” Albence said during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on July 31. “These individuals have access to 24-7 food and water…There’re basketball courts, exercise classes, soccer fields… In fact, many of these individuals the first time they’ve seen a dentist is when they’ve come to one of our FRCs.”
Also in July, Albence told reporters that the reason some parents are deported without their children “is because they completed the smuggling act.”
“Their goal, when they paid their smuggler and these criminal organizations and these cartels $5 or $6,000 to smuggle themselves into the country, their goal was to get their child here,” he said on a call with reporters. “They’ve accomplished that goal. So if they have to return on their own, they’re willing to do so and leave the child here because that was the intended goal of their illegal entry in the first place.”
The changes to ICE’s leadership come amid a major shakeup at the Department of Homeland Security, which includes the departure of Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.
White House senior adviser Stephen Miller is widely believed to be orchestrating the changes to the country’s immigration leadership in favor of enacting even tougher policies.
In addition to Nielsen and Vitiello, acting deputy secretary Claire Grady and Secret Service director Tex Alles are leaving their posts. L. Francis Cissna, head of Citizenship and Immigration Services, and John M. Mitnick, Homeland Security general counsel, are also expected to be pushed out of their positions, according to The Associated Press.