Obama Gives ICE the Cold Shoulder

by Ryan Lovelace
Sources say immigration agents believe the federal government is deliberately not giving them work.

President Obama is encouraging Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers to slack off on the job, former border cops tell National Review Online.

Some ICE officials think the Obama administration has intentionally neglected to give them orders to support efforts to resolve the crisis on America’s southwestern border, says Ronald Colburn, former national deputy chief of the U.S. Border Patrol. As a result, the wave of unaccompanied children from Central America is unfolding while ICE officials cool their heels.

“They’re sitting still at their desks — reading newspapers, playing video games on their government computers — because they’re not being tasked with work, and they feel like it’s coming all the way down from the top,” Colburn tells NRO. “These are guys that do want to go out more, but basically they’re not.” Colburn says some ICE agents go work out at the gym for four hours each day because they have little work to do. Meanwhile, he says, the Obama administration continues to “strangle” Border Patrol agents who must process and handle the latest flood of Central Americans rather than stand guard at the border.

Border Patrol agents are often referred to as “catchers” because they are tasked with apprehending and processing illegal aliens crossing the border. ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations officers are dubbed “removers” because of their added responsibility of deporting illegal aliens.

Dave Stoddard, executive vice president of the Law Enforcement Officers Advocates Council and a retired Border Patrol agent with several decades of experience on America’s borders, tells National Review Online that ICE agents have voiced their complaints with him about how little work they have to do. “These ICE officers are sitting, in some cases, in brand new offices, brand-new furniture and the telephone that never rings, and brand-new cars with no place to go,” Stoddard says. “They’re on the payroll and they need to entertain themselves or occupy themselves some way or other.” Stoddard says some officers review law books while others choose to hone their skills at the shooting range because of the light workload.

An ICE spokesperson declined to comment to NRO about this story.

Stoddard says every ICE agent, Border Patrol official, investigator, and law-enforcement officer he knows within the Department of Homeland Security feels “terrified” of speaking out and committing a violation of policy. He says his experiences have led him to believe that speaking out against the wishes of DHS officials often carries more immediate consequences from management than if an agent is suspected of committing a criminal act.

Some U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers include helpful reminders about such violations of policy in their written communications. One CBP e-mail obtained by NRO includes the command “Anyone who steals, knowingly converts to his use or the use of another, or without authority, sells, conveys or disposes of any record or thing of value to U.S. Customs and Border Protection shall be fined or imprisoned not more [than] ten (10) years pursuant to 18 USCS § 641.” After speaking out publicly about public-health risks associated with the illegal immigrants transported to the San Diego Sector, Border Patrol agent Ron Zermeno received a letter, obtained by NRO, saying “you must immediately cease and desist” from issuing statements and press releases to the media with information that is “Law Enforcement sensitive.” Now ICE officials, Border Patrol agents, and others in the federal government have begun to confide in their former colleagues.

Colburn says the agents who have approached him are frustrated and note that the bottleneck of Central Americans crossing into the U.S. has been made worse by the federal government. “According to my sources, it appears that this administration is causing that [bottleneck] on purpose,” Colburn says. “So they [the Obama administration] may be saying they’re trying to resolve it, but they’re doing something different. They need to put their actions where their mouths are.”  

— Ryan Lovelace is a William F. Buckley Jr. Fellow at the National Review Institute.