The National ICE Council, which is the primary union for ICE enforcement agents and officers, is taking the extraordinary step of circulating a petition to draw attention to the threats of punishment some of its members have faced for trying to enforce immigration laws, even when those enforcement actions fall within the Obama administration's stated priorities. The union's statements suggest that the administration's "prosecutorial discretion" policy is really a euphemism for "catch and release" that was contrived to mislead lawmakers and the public.
The union statement accompanying the petition, which as of today has more than 55,000 signatures, describes how one ICE agent is facing a three-day suspension from his duties and possible termination and loss of pension because he attempted to deport an illegal alien who had been arrested and who had 10 traffic violations on his record. The union statement points out that, according to the stated Obama administration policies, such an illegal alien would be a priority for enforcement due to his record as a chronic offender. Moreover, according to ICE Director John Morton's various pronouncements, ICE agents and officers have the discretion to act against aliens who fall within their stated priorities. Yet this agent's supervisor determined that he had overstepped his bounds and should be punished, and that the illegal alien should be released.
Reads the petition:
This administration's ever-expanding policy of "prosecutorial discretion" that allows certain illegal aliens to avoid deportation and even get work permits gives ICE agents the discretion to determine which illegal aliens meet the criteria originally outlined in your August 2011 memo. However, it appears that your policy of "prosecutorial discretion" does not allow for any discretion whatsoever.
And woe to any officer who refuses to play along with the administration's charade. The union reported a similar incident in El Paso, Texas, where an agent was assaulted by a criminal alien attempting to escape from custody, and was later threatened with disciplinary action.
A scenario that I think could be more common is that some agents are choosing not to anger their supervisors or put their jobs and their pensions at risk, but instead are taking the path of least resistance by releasing pretty much any criminal alien who is not a convicted murderer. This mentality could explain why last fall an ICE officer in the Chicago field office released an illegal alien charged with 42 counts of predatory sexual acts, including incestuous child rape. Under current policies, criminal aliens are not considered to be dangerous until they actually have been convicted of their crime.
The agents and officers who have dared to do the right thing and even-handedly enforce the laws enacted through our democratic process, and speak out when they are punished for doing so, deserve the support and admiration of all of us who are kept safer as a result of the personal and professional risks they are taking on our behalf.