Ronald Vitiello — the acting director of the Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) — represented the agency at a recent event held by a prominent hate group.
Every year, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) holds a media event called “Hold Their Feet to the Fire,” in which white supremacists, politicians, and radio hosts convene to share FAIR’s messaging. Vitiello was one of the attendees at the 2018 conference.
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has designated FAIR as an anti-immigrant hate group. One of the board members of FAIR is John Tanton, an ophthalmologist in Michigan, who once said, “I’ve come to the point of view that for European-American society and culture to persist requires a European-American majority, and a clear one at that.”
On its website, the SPLC documented Vitiello’s appearance on Tom Roten’s radio program. The acting ICE director got friendly treatment from a host who had just interviewed Ric Oberlink — executive director of Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS). Oberlink’s group fired a neo-Nazi last year, along with two anti-Semitic writers, after they was outed by the SPLC in a previous report. CAPS is also linked to Tanton, according to the SPLC.
In the interview with Oberlink, Vitiello — a 33-year veteran of the U.S. Border Patrol and the former deputy commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection — was dismissive of the Trump administration’s now-discontinued practice of separating undocumented children from their families (which a former Nuremberg prosecutor said was a crime against humanity), saying “only 2,500 people were affected by that situation. As the SPLC pointed out, this is false, as more than 5,000 people were directly impacted by the policy, and approximately 500 children remain separated from their families despite a court order from a federal judge.
Vitiello also opined that his confirmation to be the new full-time director of ICE was all but assured, saying, “the paperwork is in front of the senate now.” He also praised the Trump administration’s widely panned immigration policy as something that “backs the rule of law.”
“We’re grateful to be in a situation, you know, when I was at CBP and now at ICE, we have an administration that backs rule of law, that wants the country secure and wants the country protected and we’re happy to be a part of that,” Vitiello said near the end of the interview.
As the SPLC noted, Vitiello’s predecessor, Tom Homan, also helped bridge the gap between hate groups and the Trump administration. Last year, Homan accepted an award from Act for America, which the SPLC characterized as “undoubtedly” the largest anti-Muslim hate group in the United States. Act for America’s founder, Brigitte Gabriel, once said that any practicing Muslim “cannot be a loyal citizen of the United States of America.”
Tom Cahill is a contributor for Grit Post who covers political and economic news. He lives in Bend, Oregon. Send him an email at tom DOT v DOT cahill AT gmail DOT com.