Say it ain't so, Alonzo...
Word's out that local ICE honcho Alonzo Pena will soon be skating after just about 14 months in his position. Sources say Pena's set to depart in a week or two – though knowing how the feds do things, one or two weeks could stretch out to 2 or 3 months. No word yet on when he’ll be replaced or who with.
If true, this'd make Pena the sixth agent-in-charge of the Arizona ICE office since 2003. I'm a little skeptical because I heard the same story a while back, with Pena's vamoose date set for sometime this past October. But those who should know are chattering incessantly that it's a done deal.
Speculation's been that Pena was never long for the job, in part because his wife decided to stay in San Antonio, where Pena had been the local ICE potentate, rather than join Pena in the PHX. Though you'd think to most married men being a thousand miles away from the wifey would have its advantages.
Otherwise, being AZ's ICE honcho is about as attractive to agency lifers as a bowl of cold menudo. The locals are freakin' psycho. And I'm told the workload sucks ass. Well, for a government employee, anyway. Who're they kiddin'? All the same, this is the excuse often offered for why the top dog's chair in Phoenix rarely stays warm for long.
Insiders expect Pena's departure -- whenever it comes -- to be a blow to morale in the PHX office. Pena, who cut his teeth as a Texas state trooper, was supposed to be in touch with the common lawman. Odds are the next guy or gal in line will be a longtime legacy Customs official, like most bosses at ICE – pants a bit shiny in the seat and no habla espanol.
Thanks to my colleague Ray Stern for inside dope on Pena's alleged departure. If you wanna know more about Pena and ICE, check Stern's November 16, 2006 cover story, Meltdown, wherein he dissects the agency's ongoing troubles.
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UPDATE: One name being ground through the rumor mill as a possible successor to Pena is a former U.S. Customs agent from Nogales, Matt Allen, who is now the director of ICE’s critical infrastructure and fraud division in Washington D.C. Allen did not return a voice mail left by New Times.
When asked about a possible Pena departure, Phoenix ICE PIO Vinnie Picard stated, "We haven't seen anything official that indicates Alonzo is leaving." Queried about the Allen lead, Picard replied, "I can't say anything about that either."
Finally, Michael Marizco, a.k.a. the “Border Reporter,” also heard the same chatter re: Alonzo back in the fall and wrote a post on his Web site about it on October 24. He speculated that Pena would be out by January, and he may end up right! Kudos to him for getting the story first.