ICE Agents Prohibited From Enforcing Immigration Laws

ICE Director John MortonJim Gilchrist, MMP Exclusive — New doubts are being raised about the sincerity of the Obama administration to enforce border security after the anticipated passage of a comprehensive immigration reform package.

In testimony before the House Judiciary Committee last week, Chris Crane, President of the National Immigration and Customs Enforcement Council 118, said ICE agents are restricted from enforcing fundamental sections of United States immigration law. He also said most of the directives restricting enforcement are given verbally to prevent written evidence from reaching the public.

He strongly criticized the prosecutorial discretion exercised by ICE Director John Morton, which has had the effect of handcuffing agents in the field and allowing thousands of aliens to freely enter the country each year.

Morton had issued a memorandum listing 19 criteria for ICE agents and officers in the field to use in determining whether an alien can be detained or arrested, thus removing their discretion. “The purpose of this policy is to prohibit officers and agents from arresting individuals from certain groups, not to provide officers with additional options,” Crane said.

From an enforcement standpoint, Crane noted, the biggest dilemma facing officers and agents in the field may be how to apply the policy to the hundreds of thousands of aliens encountered each year. Furthermore, each claim made by an alien which may prevent his or her detention or arrest must be investigated, which could take hours or days and is often complicated by the frequent usage of fraudulent documents.

Crane told the House Judiciary Committee that the ICE Office of Enforcement and Removal Operations does not have the resources to properly substantiate the claims made by aliens as they apply to the new prosecutorial discretion memorandum.

“Officers and agents will be under intense pressure from managers to simply take the alien’s word regarding a claim to avoid lengthy or troublesome attempts to substantiate claims,” he said.

“While releasing thousands of aliens that would have been placed into immigration proceedings in previous years, ICE managers will still be pushing officers and agents to remove approximately 400,000 aliens each year. The end result will be that ICE will simply avoid certain groups of aliens altogether,” Crane said.

During his testimony, Crane painted a picture of ICE as a “troubled agency” in need of closer oversight.

Separately, it has been revealed that ICE agents have been specifically prohibited from going after illegal aliens who unlawfully receive welfare benefits. “In my career, I have never seen or heard of the charge being applied in any case, to anyone,” Crane said. “We are not permitted to enforce that statute, period.”

In a related development, a lawsuit by the union is moving forward, which claims the Obama administration is ordering border agents to look the other way in violation of their Constitutional oath to enforce the law. Judge Reed O’Connor in Dallas has ruled that 10 ICE agents and officers have standing to challenge initiatives aimed at limiting ICE agents from upholding immigration law.

Meanwhile, Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) has called for the resignation of ICE Director John Morton: “Mr. Morton can no longer effectively serve at this post and perhaps, more importantly, there can be no comprehensive immigration reform as long as he’s the person in charge with enforcing it.”