John T. Morton

John T. Morton (born 1966) is an American government official who served as the director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) from 2009 to 2013. Morton was appointed unanimously by the U.S. Senate on May 12, 2009. Morton stepped down from ICE in July 2013 to take on a role as senior vice president of Capital One, a bank with headquarters in Virginia.[1]

John Morton
John t. morton ice director.jpg
Director of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
In office
May 12, 2009 – July 31, 2013
PresidentBarack Obama
Preceded byJohn Torres (as Assistant Secretary, acting)
Succeeded byJohn Sandweg (acting)
Personal details
Born1966 (age 54–55)
Inverness, Scotland
Alma materUniversity of Virginia (BA, JD)


Morton served in the Peace Corps before obtaining a law degree from the University of Virginia Law School and becoming a prosecutor.[2]


In an interview conducted shortly after his appointment, Morton emphasized a need for moderation:

And you're putting people in jail, and that's good work but it's also awesome work. I mean your actions lead to somebody going to jail. So I think, you know, the way to look at Government service is as a great honor and privilege. ... As a Government employee, balanced perspective is critical, trying to reach the common good is critical. You're not an extreme advocate. Your job is to try to get it right, and that's a very rewarding and satisfying position to be in.[2]

Morton's ICEEdit

John T Morton at a 2009 Drug Trafficking Press Conference

One of Morton's first acts in office was an expansion of I-9 audits. These were applied to over 650 businesses suspected of employing undocumented workers.[2]

Morton also expressed dissatisfaction at ICE's reliance on state and local prisons to house detainees, stating: "Immigration detention is a civil function, it is not a penal function. Over the years, however, the system has largely become dependent on excess jail space."[2] Under his leadership, ICE constructed a new detention center in Karnes County, TX. Morton called the new detention facility "sensible, sustainable and attentive to the unique needs of the individuals in our custody".[3]

Political responseEdit

Because he worked on controversial issues, Morton complained of criticism from the right and the left. "I can get criticized on the same issue from both sides on the same day," he said in 2010.[4]


  1. ^ Preston, Julia (2013-06-17). "Director of Enforcement Agency Resigns to Work for Bank". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-04-22.
  2. ^ a b c d Morton, John T. (22 August 2009). "Interview". Business of Government Hour. IBM Center for the Business of Government. Retrieved 20 August 2012. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  3. ^ Nevins, Joseph (28 March 2012). "Immigrant Detention in the United States: Hope and Change, or More of the Same?". Border Wars (NACLA). Retrieved 21 August 2012. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  4. ^ Aizenman, N. C. (20 March 2010). "Latinos increasingly critical of Obama's record on immigration". Washington Post. Retrieved 21 August 2012. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)

External linksEdit

Government offices
Preceded by
John P. Torres
Assistant Secretary for U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement
May 12, 2009 - July 31, 2013
Succeeded by
John Sandweg