Napolitano on Poor Morale: ‘It’s Not Just With ICE, It’s Throughout the Department’

By Penny Starr | April 23, 2013 | 2:59 PM EDT

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano was questioned by member of the Senate Judiciary Committee on April 23, 2013. ( Starr)

( – Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) questioned Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano at a hearing Tuesday about the low morale of employees of DHS’ Immigration of Customs Enforcement agency.

“We have a very real problem,” Sessions said. “In December of 2012 – a few months ago – a survey of federal agencies showed that morale of ICE employees had dropped in rankings to 279th out of 291 federal agencies.

“Were you aware that morale at ICE has plummeted?” Sessions asked.

“Oh yes,” Napolitano said. “And, in fact, employee morale is a real concern of mine.”

“And it’s not just with ICE, it’s throughout the department,” Napolitano said.

In June of 2010, the National Immigration and Customs Enforcement Council, ICE’s labor union, sent a “Vote of No Confidence” letter to ICE leadership.

Rep. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) questioned Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano at a Senate Judiciary hearing on April 23, 2013 on the morale of her agency's employees. ( Starr)

“On June 11, 2010, the National Immigration and Customs Enforcement Council and its constituent local representatives from around the nation, acting on behalf of approximately 7,000 ICE officers and employees from the ICE Office of Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO), cast a unanimous ‘Vote of No Confidence’ in the Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), John Morton, and the Assistant Director of the ICE Office of Detention Policy and Planning, (ODPP), Phyllis Coven,” the letter stated.

As reported earlier by, a 2011 memorandum issued by Morton directed  “prosecutorial discretion” for enforcing federal immigration law – guidance that has come under sharp criticism , including from the ICE union and its president, Chris Crane.

Crane testified before the same committee in February about ICE agents being preventing from doing their job.

“I think most Americans assume that ICE agents and officers are empowered by the government to enforce the law,” Crane said at the hearing. “Nothing could be further from the truth."

“With 11 million illegal aliens in the U.S., ICE agents are now prohibited from arresting illegal aliens solely on charges of illegal entry or VISA overstay – the two most frequently violated sections of U.S. immigration law,” Crane said.

The hearing today, Apr. 22, centered around the 844-page Immigration Modernization Act, proposed by the “Gang of Eight” Republicans and Democrats that, in part, offers a pathway to citizenship to the estimated 11 million people who are in the United States illegally.