Insubordination at ICE

by Jason Dzubow on July 7, 2011

In a unanimous vote in June 2010, leaders of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Agents’ Union accused ICE Director John Morton of “gross mismanagement within the Agency as well as efforts within ICE to create backdoor amnesty through agency policy.”  Now, the union is again attacking its leadership. 

In a recent press release, available here, the Union refers to new policies that were crafted based on the “desires of foreign nationals illegally in the United States.”  The result of these policies, according to Union leader Chris Crane, is that “every person here illegally [can] avoid arrest or detention, as officers we will never know who we can or cannot arrest.”  It seems the focus of the agents’ complaint is a memo issued last month by the ICE Director entitled “Exercising Prosecutorial Discretion Consistent with the Civil Immigration Enforcement Priorities of the Agency for the Apprehension, Detention, and Removal of Aliens.”  A link to the memo is available here.  

Deport gang members, not grannies.

After reviewing the memo, it is difficult to understand the ICE agents’ concern.  Essentially, the memo states the obvious: ICE has limited resources for removing illegal aliens from the U.S.  Therefore, ICE should prioritize the removal of criminal aliens and people who endanger our national security.  The memo lists positive and negative factors that officers should consider when deciding how to prioritize cases.  In other words, the memo basically orders ICE agents to prioritize the removal of gang members over grandmas.  How this equates to a “backdoor amnesty” is a mystery. 

Another complaint mentioned in the Union press release is the way policies are implemented at ICE:

Agents claim that under Director John Morton the agency always presents written policies for public consumption, but then makes “secret changes” to the policies which ICE refuses to put in writing.

It is unclear how these “secret changes” are implemented in an organization with thousands of employees.  The press release continues:

The Union also alleges that ICE Field Office Directors (FODs) have confided in the Union that when the FODs raised questions about the effectiveness of the new policies, ICE Headquarters responded by telling the FODs to turn in their badges and file for retirement.

The press release ends with a plea for help from the public:

[We] are asking everyone to please email or call your Congressman and Senators immediately and ask them to help stop what’s happening at ICE, we desperately need your help.

I am an outsider and I have no idea about any “secret policies” at ICE.  However, I represent many foreigners in the U.S., and I am very well aware of the rates of detention and removal of illegal aliens.  In FY 2010 (the only year of the Obama Administration where statistics are available), we removed a record number of illegal aliens from the United States.  And it seems we will remove even more illegal aliens in FY 2011.  This hardly seems like a “backdoor amnesty.”  Given the number of aliens deported from the U.S., the ICE agents’ complaints seems unfounded and–frankly–out of touch with reality.  

Nevertheless, the allegations in the Union’s press release are serious and–considering the source–they must be taken seriously.  If the claims in the union’s press release are true, it would raise serious concerns about operations at ICE, and Director Morton should probably be removed.  On the other hand, if these allegations are exaggerations made for partisan political purposes, it is a clear case of insubordination and those responsible should be fired.

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