Immigration and Customs Enforcement director John Morton announced Monday that he will leave the agency at the end of July after more than four years.
"I am extremely proud of what we have accomplished together during that time and look with awe on the incredible progress ICE has made as an agency," Mr. Morton said in a memo to employees. "ICE has truly come of age and become an innovative, leading force in federal law enforcement."
ICE is the principal investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security and the second-largest investigative agency in the federal government. Created in 2003, ICE has an annual budget of $5.7 billion and more than 20,000 employees in offices in all 50 states and 47 foreign countries.
The agency's primary mission is to promote homeland security and public safety through the criminal and civil enforcement of federal laws governing border control, customs, trade and immigration.
Mr. Morton is leaving to take a position as senior vice president and head of compliance for Capital One Bank.
"He is a skilled leader with great judgment and a proven ability to drive results in a dynamic organization," Capital One spokeswoman Tatiana Stead said. "Compliance is a high priority for our company, and we couldn't be more pleased that he will be joining our team."
During Mr. Morton's tenure at ICE, the Obama administration said it deported nearly 400,000 illegal immigrants annually, although critics have claimed the numbers have been inflated.
President Obama's deportation record has been the subject of heated debate. While claiming to have deported more people than any other president, internal documents show he boosted those numbers by including some immigrants who had just crossed the border. Excluding those numbers shows deportations from the interior of the U.S. actually dropped.
Mr. Morton was unanimously confirmed as the director by the Senate on May 12, 2009. Before his appointment, he spent 15 years at the Justice Department, where he served as an assistant U.S. attorney, counsel to the deputy attorney general and acting deputy assistant attorney general of the department's Criminal Division.
While at ICE, Mr. Morton sought to strengthen its investigative efforts, with a particular emphasis on border crimes, export controls, intellectual-property enforcement and child exploitation.
He also sought to prioritize ICE's immigration enforcement efforts around the removal of criminal offenders, recent border violators and those who ignore orders of removal or obtain immigration status by fraud.
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