A bigger, ongoing problem with ICE is that the agency seems to be conflicted about its mission. The Obama Administration says its immigration policy is focused on detaining dangerous criminals who are a threat to public safety. Yet according to ICE memos obtained by USA Today, ICE officials made plans to go after undocumented immigrants who committed minor crimes. USA Today’s report claims officials went through driver’s license records, staked out traffic safety checkpoints, and detained low-level offenders – all to meet deportation quotas. But Vincent Picard, ICE Public Affairs Director for the Southern region, stated that “USA Today’s story lacks context and does not present an accurate picture of ICE’s focus on criminal offenders.” Picard also said the Atlanta field personnel were discussing possible steps on pursuing criminal offenders, and “few of the contemplated steps were ever pursued.”
In fact, ICE set another record in 2012 for deportations, removing 409,849 undocumented immigrants from the U.S. Forty-five percent of these deportees had no criminal records whatsoever. Of the 55 percent classified as “criminals,” most were convicted of low-level crimes and immigration violations – not violent crimes, drug offenses, or DUIs. As one advocacy group point out, ICE is deporting the same undocumented immigrants that President Obama wants to put on a path to citizenship.
ICE has internal problems as well. The president of the ICE employees union, Chris Crane,recently told the House Judiciary Committee that the agency ranked 279th out of 291 federal agencies for employee job satisfaction. “Outside influences have in large part eroded the order, stability, and effectiveness of the agency,” he said, “creating confusion among ICE employees.” It has also led to open dissent; a group of ICE agents is suing the Obama Administration over the Deferred Action policy, which they contend prevents them from doing their job.
by Raul A. Reyes