John Sanders, America's top border security official, will resign from his job as acting commissioner of US Customs and Border Protection next month, according to Department of Homeland Security officials and a message sent to CBP staff.
His resignation continues a dizzying pattern of personnel changes at DHS that have come in the middle of a border crisis triggered by the biggest migration surge in more than a decade, overloading US agents and detention capacity.
Sanders has served in his job as acting CBP commissioner for barely two months. He was named to the role after US President Donald Trump removed then-DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen from the department and replaced her with then-CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan.
CBP officials have not publicly announced Sanders's departure. One DHS official said the resignation was not related to recent controversies over the treatment of underage migrants in US custody along the border.
Sanders had been pushing in recent weeks for an expansion of temporary holding facilities that could accommodate the growing number of underage mothers with infants who are being held in US Border Patrol facilities because there is no room for them in shelters overseen by the Department of Health and Human Services.
"As some of you are aware, yesterday I offered my resignation to Secretary McAleenan, effective Friday, July 5," Sanders wrote in a message to staff. "Although I will leave it to you to determine whether I was successful, I can unequivocally say that helping support the amazing men and women of CBP has been the most fulfilling and satisfying opportunity of my career."
A former technology executive, Sanders had a reputation as a low-key and nonpartisan figure at CBP. He served under McAleenan as CBP chief operating officer and before that worked at the Transportation Security Administration.
Another DHS official said personnel changes were also underway at US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), whose acting director Mark Morgan was meeting today with senior CBP leaders.
The meetings fuelled speculation that Sanders was removed to clear a path for Morgan to take over at CBP.
Morgan worked at the FBI under former director James Comey, and was brought in to CBP in 2014 to lead an overhaul of Border Patrol use-of-force policies. The effort was successful, but it chafed at senior CBP officials, who viewed him as an outsider who had not paid his dues by working as a rank-and-file border agent.
Morgan ascended to be head of the US Border Patrol at the end of President Barack Obama's second term, but he was removed from his job when Trump took office.
He worked his way back into Trump's good graces through a series of appearances praising the President on Fox News. Trump named Morgan to the top job at ICE last month, saying he wanted to go in a "tougher direction."
Morgan had never worked at ICE, though, and made his preference for the top CBP job clear to colleagues. A push by the White House to have him take over leadership of CBP - instead of ICE - was blocked last month by McAleenan.