WASHINGTON — U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced Aug. 25 that Anthony H. Pham, previously the agency’s head prosecutor and legal advisor, has been named acting head of ICE, replacing Matthew Albencc.

Pham will lead day-to-day operations and oversee the agency’s 20,000-plus employees.

Tony Pham

“As a seasoned leader with DHS, Tony will ensure ICE continues to safeguard our country’s borders from crime and illegal immigration,” an ICE spokesperson said in a statement.

After the fall of Saigon in 1975, Pham and his family came to the U.S. as refugees. As a child, he took English as a second language to assist his parents in studying for their citizenship tests. In 1985, after ten years in America, the Phams were rewarded with U.S. citizenship.

Pham graduated from the College of William and Mary in 1995 and from the University of Richmond School of Law in 1999. He served as a judicial clerk in the Circuit Court of Henrico County before becoming a prosecutor in the Richmond Commonwealth Attorney’s Office. While there, he quickly progressed to prosecuting complex homicide, narcotics, and firearm cases. He also served as a special assistant U.S. attorney handling narcotic trafficking and illegal weapons matters. In 2006, he was ultimately tasked to create and lead the city’s first-ever gang prosecution unit.

In 2008, after eight successful years as a prosecutor, Pham transitioned his litigation skills to the Richmond City Attorney’s Office as the public safety attorney, handling all civil rights litigation on behalf of the city and the police officers. In 2010, he was selected by C.T. Woody Jr. to serve as the in-house counsel for a constitutionally elected sheriff. His work entailed providing legal and operational guidance to an organization of 600 full-time employees with an average population of 1,200 inmates.

In 2009, Pham was honored as one of Richmond’s “Top 40 Under 40” individuals who were up-and-coming leaders in the area. In 2010, he was recognized as one of Virginia Lawyer’s Weekly’s “Leaders in the Law” for his leadership in criminal law in the Asian American community. He has further been honored in 2011 and 2012 as one of Virginia Business Magazine’s “Legal Elite” in criminal law. Recently, Pham was featured in a cover story by Virginia Lawyer’s Weekly recognizing him as “The Only Lawyer in Virginia Running a Jail.”

Following these recognitions, Pham was selected by the Supreme Court of Virginia to serve on the Virginia State Bar’s Disciplinary Board, where he was on a panel that adjudicated matters involving attorney misconduct. He further served as a distinguished faculty member of the Justice Carrico Professionalism Course on behalf of the Virginia State Bar. He was recognized for his leadership in the Asian American community when Gov. Tim Kaine appointed him to serve on the Virginia Asian Advisory Board in 2010, and later reappointed by Gov. Robert F. McDonnell.

Recently, Pham served as the superintendent of the Virginia Peninsula Regional Jail, managing a $26 million budget and 136 full-time employees. While he has been a trailblazer in the field of law and corrections, he is most proud of being happily married for 18 years and a father of a daughter and son.

“When we came to this nation seeking hope and opportunity as refugees, I signed a promissory note to America,” Pham said. “I owe a debt for my freedoms and opportunities which must be repaid. I do so by committing to my community as a dutiful citizen and to pass along my experiences and opportunities to serve those around me.”

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