One of the top lawyers at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Tony Pham, will succeed Matthew Albence as the new leader of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) agency responsible for immigration detention, deportations, and operations against transnational crime, according to CBS News.
Pham is a Vietnamese immigrant who resettled in the United States as a refugee with his family after the fall of Saigon in 1975. He was previously ICE’s principal legal advisor before ascending to the directorship of the agency.
“As a seasoned leader with DHS, Tony will ensure ICE continues to safeguard our country’s borders from crime and illegal immigration,” said an agency spokesperson in a statement on Tuesday, August 25.
Pham and his family became U.S. citizens in 1985, ten years after entering the U.S. as refugees. After graduating from law school, Pham worked as a prosecutor in Virginia for eight years before serving as an attorney for local government offices in Richmond, according to CBS News. Before joining ICE, Pham’s last job was superintendent of the Virginia Peninsula Regional Jail.
During his first month in office, President Trump gave ICE the power to detain and deport any immigrant in the U.S. who lacked legal status. Although arrests and the detainee population has been dramatically reduced during the coronavirus pandemic, ICE remains President Trump’s key agency to crack down on unauthorized immigration.
Pham joins a growing list of Vietnamese refugees making a name for themselves in politics and STEM fields around the world. Another famous Vietnamese refugee turned politician was former Federal Minister of Economics and Technology and Vice-Chancellor of Germany from 2011 to 2013, Philipp Rösler.
Rösler was born in South Vietnam in 1973 and was sent to a Roman Catholic orphanage near Saigon. He was later adopted by a German couple and raised in Düsseldorf, West Germany. Rösler later rose up the ranks in German politics, eventually becoming Vice-Chancellor under Angela Merkel FDP party.
Both Pham and Rösler serve as excellent examples of Asian immigrants getting involved in politics and making a name for themselves and hopefully use their influence to inspire the next generation of Asian immigrants around the world. Far too many times Asians are scapegoated, largely due to lack of political influence they possess, which makes them prime targets.