(CNSNews.com) -- Sarah Saldana, director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), told members of the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday that ICE agents who do not enforce President Barack Obama’s immigration priorities, outline in a Nov. 20 DHS memo, could be fired for not following an agency directive.
During a hearing on ICE oversight on April 14, Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) referred to Obama’s statement during a town hall event in February, during which the President said there would be “consequences” for ICE agents who enforce federal immigration laws outside of his mandated enforcement priorities.
Representative Franks then asked Saldana what those consequences would be.
“The president also said, and I know this question was proffered earlier, if somebody’s working for ICE and they don’t follow this policy, there’s going to be consequences for it,” Franks explained. “Have you enforced that? I mean is there, are there consequences for not following that policy?”
“There are consequences for not following the rule of the employee’s status with the agency. I have a whole manual on that -- ” Saldana said before being cut off.
“What would the consequences be if someone in the position that required them to follow through with the president’s directives -- and again we’ll set the constitutional issue aside for the moment, if the president’s done that then I guess we can do that – what would be the consequences for doing that?” Franks pressed.
“Well, whether it’s that directive, or assaulting an employee in the office, or not abiding by some other rule or policy, the range of punishment can range from anything to a verbal meeting, where you counsel that person, to ultimately what’s available to any employer and that’s termination,” Saldana said.
“For not following any policy or directive or rule of employment,” Saldana agreed.
“Which includes the president’s directive. All right, I understand,” Franks concluded. Saldana did not argue.
Speaking at an immigration town hall event at Florida International University on Feb. 25, Obama defended his unilateral immigration policies that “focus on felons,” not “families.”
“We are now implementing a new prioritization,” Obama explained. “There are going to be some jurisdictions, and there may be individual ICE officials or Border Patrol who aren’t paying attention to our new directives. But they’re going to be answerable to the head of the Department of Homeland Security, because he’s been very clear about what our priorities should be. And I’ve been very clear about what our priorities should be.”
“The bottom line is, is that if somebody is working for ICE and there is a policy and they don’t follow the policy, there are going to be consequences to it,” he added.
Saldana also explained at the hearing Tuesday that all ICE agents are required to carry cards that lay out ICE’s immigration enforcement priorities, which group illegal aliens deemed eligible for deportation into three ranking categories. Priority 1 includes aliens who threaten national security, border security and public safety; Priority 2 includes aliens convicted of three or more misdemeanor offenses or a "significant misdemeanor," as well as recent border-jumpers; and Priority 3 involves aliens who have been issued a final order of removal on or after Jan. 1, 2014.
"We have actually put out real substantial training on this, sir," Saldana told Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), holding up a card she said she carries herself. "And every officer uses one of these cards, which clearly outlines those priorities."
"And quite frankly, I carry it myself -- and try to make sure that each of these priorities...the first one is outlined on the front, the second and third priorities on the back," she said. "Again, trying to make an effort to clarify for law enforcement where our priorities should be."
Saldana said she has directed her staff to raise any questions about the Obama administration's immigration priorities up the chain of command.