Acting Deputy Commissioner of Customs and Border Protection Ronald D. Vitiello may be the frontrunner to become the next director of Immigration Customs and Enforcement.
ICE Deputy Director Thomas Homan, who has filled the role of acting director since January 2017, announced in April his plans to retire this month.
Homan had originally planned to retire with the incoming administration in January 2017 but was convinced to stay on as acting director until a permanent ICE director could be found. He was nominated to permanently fill the role in November but was not confirmed by the Senate.
Quartz first reported on the possible move for Vitiello, citing several unnamed former and current officials within the Department of Homeland Security.
An announcement might come as early as Friday, the report said. The White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The next ICE leader will take over at a time when the agency is facing strong public criticism over the administration’s hardline policy on locating and removing undocumented immigrants with criminal histories and the “zero-tolerance” policy that includes blanket prosecution for all adults who illegally enter the United States.
Vitiello began his career in 1985 as a Border Patrol agent in Laredo, Texas, and rose through the ranks to be named acting chief of the Border Patrol and acting deputy commissioner of CBP in 2015.
While serving in his most recent role, Vitiello has spoken about possible approaches to constructing President Trump’s proposed border wall and the issue of unaccompanied children crossing into the U.S. illegally.
In a recent interview with Homeland Security Today, Vitiello said he has sought to put a new face on the Border Patrol by increasing communication between the headquarters in Washington, D.C., and agents serving in the field.
“I have a deep appreciation for what the field knows and never assume that I can solve their problems from up here,” Vitiello said. “Being in the headquarters is a unique opportunity to add to the whole enterprise or make improvements to the enterprise … I think that it’s important they have a voice up here, so that we’re not trying to drive solutions from 3,000 miles away.”