Conservative critics of the Gang of Eight immigration bill are closely watching the House, wary of any actions that could lead to a conference committee with the Senate. Many have been critical of what they regard as House leadership’s equivocation on the issue, and now some are accusing House Republicans of failing to adequately investigate the Obama administration’s failure to enforce existing immigration law.
Chris Crane, president of the National ICE Council, the union representing more than 7,500 officers and support staff at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), is urging House lawmakers to investigate alleged abuses by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) before introducing any immigration-reform legislation. “We are urging all lawmakers to demand an investigation of DHS before moving immigration bills,” Crane, a vocal critic of the Gang of Eight, wrote in a letter to members of Congress on Monday.
He is joined by Kenneth Palinkas, president of the union representing officers and staff of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), who also opposes the Gang of Eight bill. “At every step, this administration places obstacles and roadblocks in front of our adjudication officers in their attempts to protect our nation’s security and the American taxpayer,” Palinkas said on October 10. He has warned that pursuing immigration reform of any kind “without first confronting the widespread abuses at USCIS would be to invite disaster.”
Both union presidents complain that neither the Gang of Eight nor President Obama has sought their input on the issue of immigration-law enforcement. Crane has been trying to secure a meeting at the White House since February.
“ICE officers are being ordered by DHS political appointees to ignore the law,” Crane wrote Monday. “Violent criminal aliens are released every day from jails back into American communities. ICE Officers face disciplinary action for engaging in routine law enforcement actions.” Last year, a group of ICE agents sued the Obama administration over its June 2012 policy directive designed to give certain illegal immigrants — so-called DREAMers, who were brought to the country as children — a reprieve from deportation efforts. The agents contend that the administration’s directive has been applied far too broadly and often forces them to release illegal immigrants arrested for violent crimes, such as assaulting an officer. In some cases, known gang members with criminal histories are let go without charge. All they have to do is claim protection under “Obama’s DREAM Act,” as some have taken to calling it.
“This a public-safety issue,” Crane tells National Review Online. “The administration’s actions are putting the American people at risk, and I think every member of Congress should be demanding answers.” Essentially, his agents are prohibited from enforcing the law; they are “beat down and scared” and under the constant threat of retaliation from an agency (DHS) that “rules with an iron fist.” He is skeptical of any immigration-reform effort that fails to address these concerns.
Palinkas argues that USCIS, which is charged with processing immigrant applications for visas and requests for legal status, has become “an approval machine” at the administration’s behest: The approval rate of applications for legal status under the so-called “DREAM order” is almost 100 percent. Adjudicators are given “approval quotas” and discouraged from fully vetting applications, Palinkas says. Employees are forced to comply with administrative orders requiring USCIS to grant welfare benefits to immigrants who are not legally eligible to receive them.
“We’re ready and willing to meet with anyone and everyone who asks, and to help out with any investigations,” Crane says. House Republicans have held a number of hearings dealing with issues of border security and interior immigration enforcement, but none so far have specifically addressed the concerns presented by the immigration-law-enforcement community.
A senior conservative aide opposed to the Gang of Eight suggests that House leadership is reluctant to draw attention to the accusation from immigration officers out of fear that it could further complicate the politics of immigration reform, which is backed by prominent interest groups in both parties. “It’s easy to be tough when you don’t have to confront any embedded special interests,” the aide said, citing as examples Republican resolve during investigations into scandals surrounding the IRS and the Fast and Furious program. “The real question is, Are you tough when it requires you to take on the special interests in your own party?”
The “grand thinkers” in the Republican party just want to “get the immigration issue behind” them and know that the base is already on edge, the aide adds. “It would be inconvenient to explore these scandals and corrupt activities, because revealing them would require taking action to address them, and that would be an unpleasant roadblock to the swift passage of an immigration bill.”
— Andrew Stiles is a political reporter for National Review Online.