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ICE Leadership

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Tony H. Pham currently serves as Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Director, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Between January 22 to August 30, 2020, Tony served as the Principal Legal Advisor for the ICE Office of the Principal Legal Advisor (OPLA).

After the fall of Saigon in 1975, Tony and his family came to the United States as refugees. As a child, Tony 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 United States citizenship.

Tony 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, Tony quickly progressed to prosecuting complex homicide, narcotics, and firearm cases. He also served as a Special Assistant United States 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, Tony transitioned his litigation skills to the Richmond City Attorney’s Office as the Public Safety attorney where he handled all civil rights litigation on behalf of the City and the police officers. In 2010, Tony was selected by the Honorable 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, Tony was honored as one of Richmond’s “Top 40 Under 40” individuals who are up and coming leaders in the area. Thereafter, 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, Tony 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, Tony was selected by the Supreme Court of Virginia to serve on the Virginia State Bar’s Disciplinary Board where he served on a panel which adjudicated matters involving attorney misconduct. Tony further served as a distinguished faculty member of the Justice Carrico Professionalism Course on behalf of the Virginia State Bar. Tony was recognized for his leadership in the Asian American community when Governor Kaine appointed him to serve on the Virginia Asian Advisory Board in 2010, and later reappointed by Governor Robert F. McDonnell.

Tony also previously served as the Superintendent of the Virginia Peninsula Regional Jail managing a $26 million budget and 136 full-time employees. While Tony 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. 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.” — Tony H. Pham, Esq.

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Derek N. Benner is currently the Executive Associate Director for Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Deputy Director. HSI is an organization of more than 8,500 employees, which includes more than 6,100 special agents who are assigned to 30 Special Agent in Charge (SAC) offices in major cities, over 182 other field offices throughout the United States, and 68 overseas locations and 8 Department of Defense Liaisons in 51 countries. Prior to this assignment, Mr. Benner served as the Deputy EAD for HSI. As the investigative component of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), HSI’s investigative and enforcement initiatives and operations target cross-border criminal organizations that exploit America's legitimate trade, travel, financial and immigration systems for their illicit purposes.

Prior to this position, Mr. Benner served as the Assistant Director of Domestic Operations with oversight of HSI’s domestic field offices. Mr. Benner also served as SAC for HSI in San Diego, California. In this position, he oversaw one of HSI’s largest investigative offices in the nation, which includes a diverse cadre of federal agents, intelligence analysts, and professional administrative staff throughout San Diego and Imperial counties. He also oversaw a number of HSI-led multiagency tasks forces, which included state, local and federal law enforcement members working together to target cross-border criminal organizations that exploit the legitimate commercial trade, travel, and financial systems in the California/Mexico border region.

Prior to this assignment, Mr. Benner served in several key leadership positions at ICE Headquarters. As the Deputy Assistant Director of HSI’s Financial, Narcotics and Special Operations Division in Washington, D.C., he was responsible for the agency’s national financial fraud and narcotics smuggling programs. He also served as Chief of Staff to the Director of HSI and provided management oversight at the national level.

Mr. Benner began his law enforcement career with the U.S. Customs Service in 1991 as a co-op student. He worked at the San Ysidro Port of Entry as a Customs Inspector for two years before becoming a Marine Enforcement Officer and a Special Agent with the U.S. Customs Service’s Office of Investigations in San Diego. In 2002, Mr. Benner was promoted to the management ranks where he supervised agents assigned to the local maritime smuggling task force and managed the asset forfeiture, intelligence and administration programs as an Assistant SAC in San Diego.

Mr. Benner holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from George Mason University.

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Kathy Nuebel Kovarik began serving as the chief of staff of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement on August 2, 2020. Ms. Nuebel Kovarik previously served as the chief of staff for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and as the chief for the USCIS Office of Policy and Strategy. She also previously served as an advisor to DHS Secretary John F. Kelly.

Ms. Nuebel Kovarik worked for the U.S. Senate for more than 17 years, most recently as professional staff on the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary under Republican Chairman Chuck Grassley of Iowa. During that time, she worked on immigration legislation and oversight.

She also was the staff director of the Senate Caucus on Foster Youth to help advance policies affecting foster youth and families. Before moving to the Judiciary Committee, she served in Sen. Grassley’s personal office, working on an array of policy issues.

Ms. Nuebel Kovarik is from Le Mars, Iowa. She graduated from Denison University in Granville, Ohio, in 1998. She lives in Washington, D.C.

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Henry Lucero is the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) Executive Associate Director. In this role, Mr. Lucero leads ERO in its mission to protect the homeland through the arrest and removal of aliens who undermine the safety of our communities and the integrity of our immigration laws. He is responsible for a budget of approximately $4.4 billion and leads more than 7,900 employees assigned to 24 ERO field offices and headquarters, in more than 200 domestic locations and 25 overseas locations.

Prior to his current position, Mr. Lucero served as ERO’s Acting Deputy Executive Associate Director where he oversaw the execution of ERO’s interior immigration enforcement operations.

Mr. Lucero has held numerous other leadership positions within ICE including Assistant Director for Field Operations, Field Office Director for the Phoenix, San Antonio and Washington Field Offices, Deputy Assistant Director for the Headquarters Compliance Enforcement Division, Unit Chief for the ERO Criminal Alien Program Operations Unit, and National Program Manager for the Human Smuggling and Trafficking Unit.

Mr. Lucero started his federal career in 1993, proudly serving as an enlisted soldier in the U.S. Army. He has more than two decades of federal law enforcement experience. He began his law enforcement career as a Border Patrol Agent with the former U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service before being selected as Senior Patrol Agent. Subsequently, Mr. Lucero transitioned to the ICE Office of Investigations, serving as both a Special Agent and Senior Special Agent.

Mr. Lucero is a recipient of the ICE Director’s Award for International Achievement and the ICE Assistant Secretary’s Award for Protecting the Homeland. He received the Director’s Award in 2014 for the implementation of initiatives that resulted in a total cost avoidance of more than $75 million annually. He received the Assistant Secretary’s Award in 2007 for his work on a major investigation that resulted in multiple felony convictions and a criminal forfeiture of $4.7 million.

Mr. Lucero has been a member of the Senior Executive Service since 2012. He holds a Master of Science in Management from Johns Hopkins University and a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice from National University. Additionally, Mr. Lucero has been an adjunct professor of management and leadership courses at the undergraduate level.

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Alysa D. Erichs is currently the Acting Executive Associate Director for Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). As the investigative component of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), HSI’s investigative and enforcement initiatives and operations target crossborder criminal organizations that exploit America's legitimate trade, travel, financial and immigration systems for their illicit purposes. HSI is comprised of more than 8,500 employees, which includes more than 6,100 special agents who are assigned to 30 Special Agent in Charge (SAC) offices in major cities, over 182 other field offices throughout the United States, and 68 overseas locations and 8 Department of Defense Liaisons in 51 countries.

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Ms. Staci A. Barrera is the Executive Associate Director (EAD) for Management and Administration (M&A) for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). M&A oversees ICE's budget, expenditures, accounting and finance, procurement, human resources and personnel, workforce recruitment, equal employment opportunity, information technology systems, facilities, property and equipment needs. In addition, Management and Administration identifies and tracks the agency's performance measurements.

Prior to this assignment, Ms. Barrera – a member of the Senior Executive Service – served as Assistant Director for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Mission Support, where she has acted as the primary advisor to the HSI EAD on all administrative and management matters since January 2008. In that capacity, she was also responsible for a budget of more than $2 billion (from multiple sources) and approximately 150 employees.

In addition to Ms. Barrera’s HSI responsibilities, she also accepted two detail assignments: Acting Deputy EAD for M&A (July 2017 to October 2017) and Acting Human Capital Officer (October 2014 to September 2015). In both those detail assignments, Ms. Barrera demonstrated strong leadership, sound judgement, and expertise in overseeing a myriad of administrative programs supporting an ICE workforce of nearly 20,000 employees around the world.

Ms. Barrera has more than 26 years of government service. Prior to joining ICE in 2008, Ms. Barrera held a number of key leadership positions in the federal government. She served in the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Executive Office for the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) program, first as Associate Director and then as the Deputy Director, overseeing OCDETF’s national efforts, including budget, strategic planning and performance activities, the Attorney General’s Consolidated Priority Organization Target list, the State and Local Overtime program, and the Strike Force program. Ms. Barrera was also responsible for spearheading OCDETF’s efforts to create the OCDETF Fusion Center (OFC), a multi-agency, intelligence center focused on supporting drug and money laundering investigations.

Ms. Barrera holds a law degree from Georgetown University Law Center and a Bachelor’s of Science degree in criminal justice from Northeastern University.

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Waldemar Rodriguez is the Associate Director of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) and is responsible for overseeing OPR’s efforts to ensure ICE’s organizational integrity through a multi-layered approach of security operations, inspections and detention oversight, and investigations. OPR is responsible for impartially investigating allegations of serious employee and contractor misconduct, as well as other wrongdoing impacting ICE personnel and operations. OPR also provides senior executive leadership with independent reviews of ICE programs and operations, to ensure compliance with applicable policies, procedures, and detention standards. Additionally, OPR is responsible for ICE’s personnel, physical, and administrative security programs which protect ICE personnel, facilities, classified information and security systems, against both internal and external threats.

Prior to his assignment with OPR, Mr. Rodriguez was the Special Agent in Charge of ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in El Paso, Texas and held various key leadership positions at ICE Headquarters in Washington, D.C., including Deputy Assistant Director (DAD) for Homeland Security Investigations’ (HSI) Transnational Crime and Public Safety Division, DAD for HSI Domestic Operations, Acting DAD for the HSI Workforce Management Division, and Unit Chief for the HSI Workforce Management Staffing Solutions Unit.

Mr. Rodriguez’ HSI field assignments include service as a Group Supervisor in the SAC San Juan office, and as an Assistant Special Agent in Charge in Laredo, Texas.

Mr. Rodriguez began his law enforcement career in 1991 as a police officer with the Puerto Rico Police Department, where he served as a criminal investigator in the Criminal Intelligence Bureau and task force officer with the Drug Enforcement Administration. In 1997, Mr. Rodriguez entered federal service as a Special Agent with the Office of the Inspector General (OIG), Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). In 2001, he transferred to the former U.S. Customs Service as a Special Agent.

Mr. Rodriguez was promoted into the Senior Executive Service in August 2011. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Social Sciences from the University of Turabo and a Master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of Puerto Rico.

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