U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton announced his resignation yesterday after more than four years at the head of the agency, reports the Los Angeles Times. A senior Department of Homeland Security official said the Obama administration was surprised by the timing as Congress is in the middle of debating a comprehensive overhaul of immigration laws. The official said some in the department saw Morton as a weak manager.
He was criticized outside the government for issuing memos in 2011 that called for ICE to employ “prosecutorial discretion” in deciding whom to deport. Citing the agency's limited resources, Morton permitted agents more leeway in deciding which individuals to question, detain, and eventually deport. Despite the use of “discretion,” ICE regularly set records in the number of people deported, reaching 409,840 during fiscal year 2012.