Search form

Group 4 Created with Sketch.
Back to Light Inside

Tae D. Johnson

Acting Director Of ICE

Tae D. Johnson’s career in federal immigration operations spans nearly three decades, beginning in 1992 as a trainee at Immigration and Naturalization Services and transferring to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in 2007. Prior to his current appointment as acting director, Johnson worked in a wide array of ICE supervisory roles that positioned him to oversee enforcement and removal operations, influence the policies and oversight of detained migrants and work on the frontlines of detention and deportation as an officer. Although Johnson has stated that ICE strives to be humane toward those in its custody, the agency’s actions Johnson has supported/implemented do not support his statements. Equity Forward has therefore rated Johnson as red.

Johnson Assumed The Role Of Acting Director Of ICE During The Trump Administration’s Final Days

Johnson Assumed The ICE Acting Director Role A Few Days Before The Biden-Harris Administration Took Office. “Johnson takes the reins at ICE less than a week before President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration. He has worked at Homeland Security and one of its predecessor agencies, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, for more than 25 years, including senior positions in ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations division.” [Border Report, 1/13/21]

Johnson Has Stated ICE Is Committed To Humane Enforcement Of Immigration Laws, Despite Contrary Statements That Imply The Agency Is More Focused On Expelling Asylum Seekers As Quickly As Possible

Johnson Issued A Statement In Support Of The Biden Administration’s Move To End The Detainment Of Pregnant, Postpartum And Nursing Individuals

Johnson Issued A Statement In Support Of The Biden Administration’s Move To End Detainment Of Pregnant, Postpartum And Nursing Individuals. “ICE is committed to safeguarding the integrity of our immigration system and preserving the health and safety of pregnant, postpartum and nursing individuals,” said Acting ICE Director Tae D. Johnson. “Given the unique needs of this population, we will not detain individuals known to be pregnant, postpartum or nursing unless release is prohibited by law or exceptional circumstances exist. This reflects our commitment to treat all individuals with respect and dignity while still enforcing our nation’s laws.” [ICE, 7/9/21]

In Senate Testimony, Johnson Stated ICE Is Committed To Humane Enforcement

During A May 2021 Senate Testimony Johnson Stated That ICE Is Committed To Humane Enforcement Of Immigration Laws. “ICE is committed to enforcing immigration laws humanely, effectively, with professionalism, and in accordance with government and Department of Homeland Security (DHS)-wide enforcement and removal priorities. On January 20, 2021, President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. issued Executive Order (EO) 13993, Revision of Civil Immigration Enforcement Policies and Priorities, 86 Fed. Reg. 7051 (Jan. 25, 2021), which articulated the Administration's baseline values and priorities for the enforcement of the civil immigration laws. On the same day, then-Acting Secretary of Homeland Security David Pekoske issued a memorandum entitled, Review of and Interim Revision to Civil Immigration Enforcement and Removal Policies and Priorities, which established interim civil immigration priorities for the Department. Subsequently, on February 18, 2021, I issued a memorandum to ICE personnel entitled, Interim Guidance: Civil Immigration Enforcement and Removal Priorities, which established guidance in support of the interim civil immigration enforcement and removal priorities set forth in former Acting Secretary Pekoske's memorandum. This interim guidance will remain in place until Secretary Mayorkas issues new enforcement guidelines.” [ICE, 5/13/21]

During The Same Testimony, Johnson Acknowledged The Humanitarian Crisis At The Southern Border. “There is a humanitarian crisis at the border. Unaccompanied children are arriving in unprecedented numbers. We have made enormous strides in ensuring these children are transferred to the safe custody and care of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) within 72 hours after determining that a child is unaccompanied. Upon apprehension by CBP, unaccompanied children are typically transferred to ERO for a short period to safely transport them to HHS ORR custody for the coordination and implementation of care and placement with appropriate family members or sponsors.” [ICE, 5/13/21]

While Discussing Family Asylum Seekers, Johnson Stated That ICE Ensures Individuals In Government Custody Are Treated With Dignity And Respect. “Family unity will be maintained while families are in residence at the hotels along the Southwest Border, and residents will have access to legal counsel and may be enrolled in an alternatives to detention program prior to their release, as appropriate. Other services while in residence include telephone access, meals, access to remote religious programming, and age appropriate recreation/leisure activities. ICE ensures that all individuals in its custody are treated with dignity and respect and are provided the best possible care.” [ICE, 5/13/21]

Johnson Has Verbally Supported Title 42 And Has Stated The Border Is Closed

Johnson Explicitly Stated The Southern Border Is Closed. “But even as the deal was announced, Johnson dissuaded would-be migrants from making the dangerous and illegal trek across the border, warning that most people would be turned around under coronavirus precautions. ‘Our border is not open,’ said Johnson. ‘The majority of individuals continue to be expelled under the Centers for Disease Control’s public health authority.’” [NY Post, 3/21/21]

Johnson Verbally Supported The Enforcement Of Title 42, A Trump-Era Policy Used To Expedite Expulsion Of Migrants And Asylum Seekers. “The exercise of Title 42 authority by CBP has enabled ICE to play its part in safely securing the border. By reducing the numbers of entrants into the United States who require quarantine, isolation, and follow-on care, the U.S. Government is better able to focus its efforts on the safety and welfare of those in U.S. custody or control. The expulsion of noncitizens at the border determined by CBP to be subject to Title 42 has been critical to ICE's efforts to ensure adequate space for social distancing and reduce the spread of COVID-19 throughout its detention facilities. ICE is concerned, however, that without Title 42 measures in place pursuant to the CDC's public health judgment and authority, a new increase in migration at the Southwest border could compromise these efforts and undermine public health efforts.” [ICE, 5/13/21]

Various Human Rights Advocates Have Critiqued ICE Policies And Actions Under Johnson’s Leadership

ICE Detention Practices Have Been Criticized For Failure To Ensure Safety Within Detention Facilities During The COVID-19 Pandemic. “Today, 160 immigrant rights and legal services organizations called on the Biden administration to implement an effective case review process to consider the release of nearly 14,000 people who remain in immigration detention, at grave risk of contracting COVID-19, more than a year into the pandemic. Many of these individuals should not be subjected to detention or deportation based on the administration’s most recent memo outlining enforcement priorities, the advocates say in a letter sent to the White House, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Tae Johnson. The case review process ICE created in early March, they say, has been ‘woefully inadequate’ because it channels detained immigrants’ requests for release to biased ICE field office directors who prefer to use their authority to keep people detained. The process also has been harmfully weighted against individuals who do not have legal representation and people with past criminal convictions, ignoring other positive factors that should favor their release.” [National Immigrant Justice Center, 3/29/21]

Members Of Congress Wrote A Letter Urging Johnson To Improve Treatment Of Transgender Individuals Held In ICE’s Custody. “Given ICE’s history on transgender detention, it’s clear that ICE is not fully capable of safely and humanely detaining transgender and HIV+ individuals. As these individuals face civil, and not criminal proceedings, alternatives to detention that protect the health and safety of these individuals is paramount. We ask that you share the following information and data on a monthly basis: In January 2020, more than 40 Members of Congress, wrote to ICE urging the release of all transgender immigrants. At that time, we noted that, ‘Immigrants who have faced fear and violence in their pursuit of a new life in the United States should not be confronted with more fear and threats of violence when they arrive at our borders.’ Unfortunately, ICE’s policy has not changed. We therefore write again today to urge ICE to ensure the release of all transgender people and people living with HIV currently in custody either on recognizance or under supervision, and to formally and publicly announce that ICE will no longer detain transgender individuals and people living with HIV, utilizing release into the community or alternative to detention programming instead.” [Congress, 7/9/21]

When Questioned About The Poor Treatment Of Transgender Detainees Johnson Did Not Respond—He Instead Pivoted To Discuss Criminal Convictions. “Yes, definitely some work is underway to figure out as I mentioned how to deal with various segments of our vulnerable population to include transgender...identifying other alternatives where that is possible. As you may be aware, I mean some individuals that are transgender have pretty serious criminal convictions, and it's you know that's one area where we are just trying to evaluate some of the mitigating factors that come with some of these cases, like their special vulnerabilities, compared to the public safety threat that they actually post, but we're going to continue to sort of dig into that issue and see where we can make improvements.” [Congressman Mike Quigley, 5/13/21]

Under Johnson’s Leadership, ICE Signed A Multimillion-Dollar Deal In Exchange For One Thousand Beds To Provide Temporary Shelter To Asylum Seekers

Under Johnson’s Leadership, ICE Signed An 80 Million Dollar Deal To Provide Temporary Shelter To A Thousand Asylum Seekers. “ICE ‘has signed a short-term contract with the non-profit division of Endeavors to provide temporary shelter and processing services for families who have not been expelled and are therefore placed in immigration proceedings for their removal from the United States,’ said ICE Acting Director Tae D. Johnson in a statement. ‘The $86.9 million contract provides 1,239 beds and other necessary services.’” The families will be put up in hotels close to the border, including in Texas and Arizona, under the deal, which is set to run six months but could be extended, Axios reported, citing officials from the federal Department of Homeland Security.” [NY Post, 3/21/21]

  • This Move Seemed To Point To The Agency’s Inability To Meet The Needs Of Migrant Families. “It's a sign of growing numbers of migrant families trying to come to the U.S. — in addition to already overwhelming numbers of kids crossing the border without their parents or legal guardians. Both trends appear to be straining government resources. The contract through Endeavors, a Texas-based nonprofit, is for six months but could be extended and expanded. The hotels will be near border areas, including in Arizona and Texas. ICE oversees the custody of migrant adults and families who cross the border illegally after they are apprehended by border patrol agents. The agency is already transforming its family detention facilities into rapid-processing centers with the goal of releasing families within 72 hours. Regardless, the contracts with hotels point to the agency not being able to keep up with the growing numbers of families in its custody.” [Axios, 3/20/21]

See More