Key immigration enforcement official steps down

The top U.S. official charged with detaining and removing illegal immigrants has stepped down, Homeland Security Department officials said Monday.

Anthony Tangeman, who ran the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) detention and removals branch, left his post on Friday, according to ICE spokesman Garrison Courtney.

As detention chief, Tangeman tried to focus his office's efforts on rounding up alien absconders, or illegal immigrants who flee after receiving final deportation orders. There are an estimated 400,000 such absconders in the United States. But with only 2,600 law enforcement officers, Tangeman admitted he was strapped to make a dent in the backlog of cases.

Tangeman's office fared well in the Bush administration's fiscal 2005 budget proposal, receiving funds for 357 additional immigration enforcement agent positions.

Courtney said Tangeman stepped down for personal reasons.

David Venturella, who served as Tangeman's deputy, is now interim chief of detention and removals, Courtney said.

Tangeman's departure will not halt ICE's efforts to reduce the absconder backlog, including a program that uses electronic ankle bracelets to keep tabs on certain illegal immigrants, Courtney said. "We're still pursuing everything just like we were," he said.