Politics & Policy

The ICE Shell Game

How the Obama crew has gotten around a reform in the enforcement of immigration law

When it comes to enacting President Obama’s second-term agenda, nothing stands in the way more than his own administration. By serially flouting our nation’s laws, this administration has ignored its constitutional duties and completely discredited itself, losing good will along the way from members of Congress.

While this administration’s lawlessness has been most widely noticed in President Obama’s implementation of Obamacare, it applies to areas far beyond health care.

For instance, in February of 2012, the Obama administration announced the creation of a “public advocate” position within the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE). This person served as a point of contact for illegal and criminal immigrants in deportation proceedings as well as for illegal-alien advocacy and community groups. Chris Crane, president of the National ICE Council, the union that represents the 7,600 ICE officers and agents, has called the public-advocate position “nothing but waste, fraud, and abuse.”

At a time when our country is $17 trillion in debt, the last thing we should be doing is using taxpayer dollars to fund a position whose primary purpose is to advocate on behalf of individuals who have entered our country illegally and in some cases broken other laws as well. This is why in the summer of 2012 I introduced an amendment to the Department of Homeland Security appropriations bill to defund this public-advocate position; it is why my amendment was passed unopposed by voice vote in the House; and ultimately it is why language to defund the position was passed by the Senate and included in the final Continuing Resolution that President Obama signed into law on March 26, 2013.

But last August we learned, thanks to information obtained by the watchdog group Judicial Watch, that the “most transparent administration in history” had quietly changed the title of the position to avoid complying with the very law the president signed. The administration changed the title of “public advocate” to “deputy assistant director of custody programs and community outreach.” It was a change in name only: The administration kept the same person in the position and made no changes to the job itself.

My office immediately began seeking an explanation from ICE, only to be repeatedly stonewalled. In September, I sent a letter to the acting director of ICE, John Sandweg, demanding answers about these reports that ICE has ignored current law by not abolishing the position of public advocate. After failing to receive a timely response, I submitted a Freedom of Information Act request, asking that the agency turn over a series of documents related to the public-advocate position.

It is an outrage that federal bureaucrats think they can simply skirt the law, in essence ignoring the will of the people by playing a shell game and hiding ICE activities with a mere title change. To fight back, I have now introduced H.R. 3732, the Immigration Compliance Enforcement (ICE) Act. This straightforward, good-government legislation prohibits federal money from being used to fund any position that performs the exact or “substantially the same” functions as the former “public advocate” or the “deputy assistant director of custody programs and community outreach.” The Obama administration must be held accountable and required to follow the spirit of the law, not just the letter.

Unfortunately for the president, he loses all credibility with lawmakers when he can’t be trusted to execute the very laws he signs. This not only creates the gridlock we see in Washington, but also undermines President Obama’s ability to advance his own agenda.

— Diane Black (R.) represents Tennessee’s 6th congressional district in the House of Representatives.


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