The acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement will retire at the end of June, marking a continued trend of transient leadership at the agency’s helm.
The Department of Homeland Security confirmed Tae Johnson’s departure on June 5, noting his 31 years of “service and sacrifice.”
“Mr. Johnson has been an integral member of ICE’s leadership team through multiple administrations,” said Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas in a statement. “He has been instrumental in advancing many of DHS’s critical missions, including the enforcement of our country’s immigration laws and our work to dismantle terrorist and criminal organizations. He helped transform the organizational culture of ICE by focusing its resources on public safety and national security.”
Mayorkas noted during his tenure as acting chief, Johnson “has overseen some of the nation’s most critical investigations, including Operation Stolen Promise to combat the new threats related to counterfeit COVID-19 vaccines and treatments, and Operation Blue Lotus to curtail the flow of fentanyl smuggled into the United States from Mexico.”
“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,” added Mayorkas. “I have personally benefitted from his frank assessments, solid judgment, and his deep expertise drawn from decades of experience.”
Mayorkas also expressed his gratitude for Johnson’s family “who has served alongside him.”
Johnson took over as acting chief of ICE in January of 2021 one week before President Joe Biden’s inauguration after then-acting director Jonathan Fahey resigned without explanation after two weeks on the job. Johnson, the fourth acting director since August of 2020, “has worked at Homeland Security and one of its predecessor agencies, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, for more than 25 years, including senior positions in ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations division,” according to Border Report.
As acting chief, Johnson oversees the day-to-day operations of ICE. The agency employs approximately 20,000 employees, including 6,800 criminal investigators and 6,000 Enforcement and Remove Operations officers.
ICE has not had an official leader in about five years. A replacement for Johnson has not yet been publicly named.
“In June 2022, Biden’s pick to lead the agency, Ed Gonzalez, withdrew from consideration after a Republican senator raised an alleged domestic complaint against Gonzalez,” reports KVIA.
News of Johnson’s retirement comes one week after U.S. Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz announced he will also retire at the end of June after more than 30 years.
The loss of leadership at both agencies comes as illegal immigration continues to surge.
FAIR US noted that, at the beginning of 2023, the net cost of illegal immigration for federal, state, and local governments will reach a combined total of $150.7 billion. The Center for Immigration Studies estimated that there were 11.35 million illegal immigrants in America in January of 2022 – with over 1.1 million people entering the country illegally in 2021 alone.