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Immigration Leader Demoted As Trump Continues Political Housecleaning

Tina Vasquez

Attorney General Sally Yates is among the government officials axed by the Trump administration in the wake of the president's controversial anti-immigration executive orders.

The White House announced Monday that President Trump had appointed Thomas Homan as acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), making no mention of former director Daniel Ragsdale or why he was removed from the position.

An ICE official in an emailed statement to Rewire would only say that “Ragsdale was not fired” and that he would resume his previous role as deputy director of the federal immigration agency. Ragsdale oversaw ICE for ten days before Homan replaced him.

Homan, who has worked for ICE in various capacities since the agency was created in 2003, told the Associated Press that he will carry out the president’s immigration orders “perfectly and we’re here to serve as an organization.”

Ragsdale was appointed to his position as deputy director by President Obama more than four years ago. It is unclear if the former ICE director opposed Trump’s anti-immigrant executive orders or if the shuffle was part of an effort by the Trump administration to remove Obama appointees.

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The announcement came on the heels of the firing of acting Attorney General Sally Yates, who on Monday told Justice Department lawyers not to make legal arguments defending Trump’s executive order on immigration and refugees, which bans travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States. A federal judge on Saturday granted the American Civil Liberties Union’s request for a nationwide temporary injunction blocking the deportation of all people stranded in U.S. airports as a result of the executive order.

Yates was said to have “betrayed the Department of Justice” in a statement from the White House. The White House statement dismissed Yates as an Obama administration appointee “who is weak on borders and very weak on illegal immigration.”

Meanwhile, U.S. Border Patrol Chief Mark Morgan will step down on Tuesday. He came under fire from the executive board of the National Border Patrol Council, a union representing 18,000 Border Patrol’s agents and support personnel.

The union called Morgan a “disgrace to the agency” in a November op-ed published by Breitbart News, a white nationalist website. The board members wrote that Morgan was “worried because he knows that his comments attacking President-elect Trump’s border security policies prior to the election has him in hot water” and that as “a hand-picked Obama Administration official, [he] does not have the will necessary to secure the border for the citizens and legal residents of this country.”

That Breitbart criticized Morgan is no surprise. The anti-immigrant site was once run by Stephen Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist who reportedly drafted the executive orders on immigration. While Bannon was executive chair of the white nationalist site, Breitbart denounced Obama’s immigration policies and was a key proponent of the conspiracy theory that Obama was not an American citizen. The site’s influence is growing within the White House, with multiple Breitbart writers joining Trump’s administration and Bannon gaining a seat on the National Security Council’s “principals committee.”

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