(This photo provided by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Wednesday, March 28, 2012, in New Jersey, shows agents taking a person into custody during operation Cross Check III. (Credit: AP)
A group of immigration agents filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration Thursday, saying they are sick of being told not to do their jobs, a feeling intensified by the president’s new non-deportation policy and a previous memo directing them not to arrest certain illegal immigrants.
A total of 10 Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents and deportation officers filed the lawsuit in federal court to try to do away with both initiatives, The Washington Times reports.
Since taking office, President Obama has taken drastic measures to loosen the nation’s immigration laws. In addition to the president’s new executive order that protects younger illegal aliens from deportation, the Obama administration has shut down numerous Border Patrol stations, ended a crucial ICE program that allowed local law enforcement agencies to enforce federal immigration law and actually instructed Border Patrol agents not to make arrests.
The 10 U.S. ICE agents and deportation officers said Obama’s policies have put them between a rock and a hard place. They can either enforce the law and be reprimanded by their superiors, or fail to enforce the law and violate their own oaths of service. In fact, a 1996 law requires the agents to demand proof of legal status from individuals they suspect are in the country illegally.
High-profile attorney Kris W. Kobach, who is also secretary of state in Kansas and a staunch promoter of Arizona’s immigration law and other immigration crackdowns, is representing the agents.
“ICE is at a point now where agents are being told to break federal law, they’re pretty much told that any illegal alien under age of 31 is going to be let go. You can imagine, these law enforcement officers are being put in a horrible position,” Kobach told The Washington Times.
Last week, thousands of illegal immigrants lined up to take part in the Obama administration’s “deferred action” program and began submitting their applications to the Department of Homeland Security. Once again, the program allows illegal aliens who are 30-years of age or younger and have a decently clear criminal record to avoid deportation and acquire work permits.
“The Directive commands ICE officers to violate federal law,” the lawsuit states, “as detailed below, commands ICE officers to violate their oaths to uphold and support federal law, violates the Administrative Procedure Act, unconstitutionally usurps and encroaches upon the legislative powers of Congress, as defined in Article I of the United States Constitution, and violates the obligation of the executive branch to faithfully execute the law, as required by Article II, Section 3, of the United States Constitution.
Not surprisingly, ICE wouldn’t comment on the lawsuit. But don’t expect President Obama or his administration to back down at all — they have continually defended the legality of his new immigration policies.
More from The Washington Times:
At a House Judiciary Committee hearing in July, Rep. Steve King warned of the possibility of a lawsuit and asked Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano if she would rescind the order before it came to that.
“Representative, I will not rescind it,” she replied. “It’s right on the law. It’s the right policy. It fits within our prosecutorial priorities. And although it came out of the Department of Homeland Security, let me say that president is four square behind it, embraces this policy as the right thing to do.”
She said the administration doesn’t have the ability to issue a stay of action for a broad category of people, but said the new policy is different because it invests decisions on a case-by-case basis with agents and officers, who are instructed not to pursue cases for those who meet the guidelines she laid out.
Ms. Napolitano said she’s acting in accordance with Supreme Court rulings that have established a wide latitude for discretion by the executive branch, and said federal law directs the administration to establish immigration enforcement priorities.
But in their 22-page complaint, the agents say they’ve been told in broad terms to ignore a whole class of illegal immigrants. They said they have been instructed not to bother asking for proof, but to take an illegal immigrant’s word that he would qualify for the president’s policy.
One of the instances included in the agents’ lawsuit is the case of ICE Agent Samuel Martin, who picked up an illegal alien from an El Paso County jail and was assaulted as the man tried to escape. The illegal alien also reportedly assaulted a second agent.
Here’s the kicker. When they brought the man to ICE’s processing center, so-called “supervisors” told Martin that the illegal alien had to be released to comply with the Obama administration’s new policies — not the president’s “DREAM Act” but a previous memo from ICE Director John Morton who instructed agents only to give priority to criminals and repeat offenders. Keep in mind, assaulting a federal officer is a federal crime, punishable by up to 8 years in prison.
Another veteran ICE agent was recently threatened with suspension for arresting and illegal alien and refusing to let him walk — against the orders of his superiors.
It is because of instances like this that Chris Crane, the president of the National ICE Council, says morale is in the toilet among ICE agents.
“They feel like they’ve become the enemy because literally we have this situation where individuals that have broken U.S. immigration law as well as often times criminal law at the state or local level — they’re being released, no questions asked, but our own officers are being threatened with their careers being taken away if they go out and enforce the laws on the books,” Crane last month.
Additionally, Roy Beck, executive director of NumbersUSA, the group funding the lawsuit, said the current administration’s amnesty-style policies could also affect the U.S. job market.
“Without immigration enforcement, the labor market would be filled until wages fell either to the global average or the federal minimum wage,” he said. “These agents are protecting every working American’s level of income and wages.”
The Washington Times points out, “The lawsuit, filed in federal court in the Northern District of Texas, argues the administration policies fail to pass muster on three grounds: they infringe on Congress’s right to set immigration policy; they force ICE agents to disregard the law; and the Homeland Security Department didn’t follow the federal Administrative Procedure Act, which requires agencies to write regulations and put them out for public comment before taking big steps.”
Read the entire lawsuit here.