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Immigration chief quits after Trump calls for ‘tougher’ nominee

Ronald Vitiello, who served for more than 30 years with Customs and Border Protection before joining ICE, “has protected our homeland with courage and conviction,” said outgoing Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen in a statement.
Evan Vucci/Associated Press/File 2019
Ronald Vitiello, who served for more than 30 years with Customs and Border Protection before joining ICE, “has protected our homeland with courage and conviction,” said outgoing Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen in a statement.

WASHINGTON — The acting director of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement quit Wednesday, the latest departure among top immigration officials as President Trump calls for tougher border control.

The announcement came after Trump told reporters last week that he was pulling his nomination of acting ICE chief Ronald Vitiello for the director’s job, saying he wanted to go in a “different direction” with someone “tougher.”

Vitiello, who served for more than 30 years with Customs and Border Protection before joining ICE, “has protected our homeland with courage and conviction,” said outgoing Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen in a statement.

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The departure comes after Trump forced out Nielsen on Sunday and the acting deputy secretary of DHS resigned on Tuesday.

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Trump is increasingly frustrated by a spike in illegal border crossings, and last month empowered a hard-line aide, Stephen Miller, to have greater authority over immigration policy within the White House.

More than 66,000 people were apprehended after crossing the border illegally in February, about a 38 percent increase from the month before. Most were families or children traveling alone.