John Sandweg, who has served as head of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for less than six months, has announced that he is resigning his post.
On Friday Sandweg sent a letter to coworkers saying he is leaving the position to return to work in the private sector.
“Over the past several months I had the opportunity to work alongside many of you,” he wrote. “I was always amazed by your dedication and commitment to the agency and our nation. Despite the challenges we face, you continue to push on, achieving remarkable security and public safety gains for our country.”
Sandweg had previously been a criminal defense attorney in Arizona.
His appointment to the position in August raised eyebrows among conservative lawmakers. Many loudly voiced their disapproval. Chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security Michael McCaul, R-Texas, sent a letter to President Obama that month pointing out that, as a defense attorney, Sandweg had defended murderers, sexual predators and pedophiles. According to the letter he also “fought to free convicts who were locked up for violent offenses.” That letter was also signed by Jeff Duncan, R-S.C.
Sandweg was a political ally of former Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano. He had helped her raise money for her reelection campaign as governor of Arizona. This alliance fueled concerns that Sandweg was not only unfit for his post but that his appointment was purely political.
The McCaul-Duncan letter went on:
“A litany of concerning allegations has been raised against Mr. Sandweg. Perhaps the most concerning is the clear political partisanship displayed throughout his career. Despite extensive political experience, Mr. Sandweg’s qualifications are critically thin in one area: Experience in law enforcement.”
Newly confirmed Secretary of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson, sent an email to ICE employees Friday applauding Sandweg for his service. Language in the email suggested that the resignation may have been in the works for some time as Johnson thanked Sandweg for “his decision to stay with the department through this transition.”
Sandweg’s resignation leaves a leadership void at the top of ICE; an agency that has struggled to find stable leadership. His predecessor, John Morton, was extremely unpopular among ICE agents who, through their union, delivered to him a unanimous vote of “no confidence.”