Union-backed Ronald Vitiello named to lead Border Patrol

SAN DIEGO (AP) -- A career Border Patrol official who was backed by the agents' union was named Tuesday as chief of the agency, less than a week after his predecessor resigned under pressure.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection said on Twitter than Ronald Vitiello has been appointed to lead the agency at a time when President Donald Trump has pledged to erect a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico and add 5,000 agents from the current level of about 20,000.

The National Border Patrol Council -- an early and outspoken backer of Trump's presidential bid -- openly supported Vitiello for the job and pushed for the ouster of his predecessor, Mark Morgan, who resigned Thursday at the request of the new administration. Morgan stepped down only seven months after being named the first outsider to run the agency since it was created in 1924.

Vitiello, who was most recently CBP's executive assistant commissioner for operations support, was acting Border Patrol chief when Morgan was appointed last year and had been considered a leading contender for the job then. He joined the Border Patrol more than 30 years ago and served as deputy chief in the administration of President Barack Obama.

Brandon Judd, the union president, said in a recent interview that Morgan never had the support of agents.

"(Vitiello) and I do not see eye to eye on a great, great many things but we were always able to keep it respectful, always," Judd said. "Morgan and I have not been able to do that."

The appointment is not subject to Senate confirmation.

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