Matthew Albence, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement official who once said that family immigrant detention was “more like summer camp,” has been tapped by the Trump administration to head the agency, according to BuzzFeed.
Albence will lead the agency during a chaotic time. Last week, President Trump announced that he’d be rescinding the nomination of acting director Ron Vitiello because his approach to the job wasn’t tough enough. In response, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen announced she’d be resigning.
Today, Vitiello said he’d resign his position on Friday.
“Beginning tomorrow I will be out of the office, during which time Acting Deputy Director Matt Albence will be leading the agency,” Vitiello wrote to ICE employees Thursday.
ICE officials seem to believe that Albence will be up for leading the “tougher” agency Trump says he wants.
“He’s definitely enforcement minded and has long been working on making [deportation officers] more efficient and more effective at enforcing the immigration laws in the interior,” an ICE official told BuzzFeed of Albence. “It’s hard to imagine what’s tougher than what Nielsen and Vitiello were doing, but assuming there is such a thing, Matt is certainly up to the task.”
The official ominously added that Albence “will be very willing to follow through on implementation.”
Albence has already been involved in directing brutal immigration policies under Trump. In February of 2017, he wrote a memo ordering ICE officers to take action against all undocumented immigrants, which wasn’t the policy under the Obama administration.
“I think he is what the administration is looking for,” Claude Arnold, a former special agent in charge at ICE, told BuzzFeed. “They wanted an operator with immigration experience. He is the right pedigree and is a smart guy with a great work ethic. I think he’ll do a great job.”
We shudder to think what a former ICE special agent means by “a great job.”
Last July, Albence was briefly shunted into the spotlight when he gave testimony to Congress about “family residential centers,” where families including children are detained by ICE.
“With regard to the FRCs, the best way to describe them is more like a summer camp,” Albence infamously told Congress. “These individuals have access to 24-7 food and water... There’s 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.”
Since then, Albence has continued to push for increased money for immigrant detention and hardline policies on deportation.
“The joke was, ‘Matt never met an undocumented immigrant that he wouldn’t deport.’ That’s his M.O. If you’re here impermissibly, it’s time for you to go. There’s no need for discretion. What the hell is that for?” a former senior official who worked at ICE with Albence told BuzzFeed.