(CNSNews.com) – The men and women charged with enforcing federal immigration law are being prohibited from doing so by the Obama administration, according to Chris Crane, president of the union that represents officers and agents employed by the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
“I think most Americans assume that ICE agents and officers are empowered by the government to enforce the law,” Crane said on Wednesday at Senate Judiciary Committee meeting on immigration reform. “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,” said Crane, who heads the National Immigration and Customs Enforcement Council 118 of the American Federation of Government Employees.
Consequently, ICE is falling apart, he said.
“Agents report that if they encounter suspected illegal aliens in the public, they cannot arrest them,” Crane said. “Their instructions are that only if an alien is first arrested by local police on criminal charges may ICE agents and officers consider making an arrest.”
Crane testified at the hearing as Congress considers passing legislation that would offer an “earned” pathway to citizenship for the estimated 11 million illegal aliens living inside the United States.
Crane’s comments are, in part, based on the “prosecutorial discretion” memorandum issued by ICE Director John Morton in June 2011 that said the priority of the agency would be to identify and remove “criminal” illegal aliens.
Crane testified that DHS and the Obama administration will alow ICE agents to enforce federal immigration law only if aliens have committed major crimes.
“If an alien is arrested by local police and placed in jail, again, ICE agents may not arrest them for illegal entry or VISA overstay,” Crane said. “New policies require that illegal aliens have a felony arrest or conviction or be convicted of three or more misdemeanors.
“So, many illegal aliens with criminal convictions are also now untouchable.” Crane said.
“ICE is crumbling from within,” Crane said. “Morale is at an all time low as criminal aliens are released to the streets and ICE instead takes disciplinary actions against its own officers for making lawful arrests.
“It appears clear that federal law enforcement officers are the enemy and not those who break our nation’s laws,” Crane said. “Whether it be our current immigration laws or future reforms – all will fail as long as individuals can pick and choose which laws enacted by Congress will be enforced.
“Operationally, ICE is not prepared or able to properly perform its mission and the interior of the U.S. is not secure,” said Crane, referring to ICE’s role to enforce immigration law inside United States while Customs and Border Protection are tasked with arrests and apprehensions on the border.
Crane said his union has sent a letter to the president asking him to include ICE officers and agents in discussions at the White House on immigration policy – an invitation he said has not yet been forthcoming.
“President Obama has excluded ICE officers and agents from all input on immigration reforms, as well as ICE and DHS arrest policies,” Crane said.
Crane also criticized DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano, who testified ahead of Crane about the success of her agency in enforcing immigration laws, including what she called record numbers of illegal alien deportations.
“Secretary Napolitano describes these new policies as smart and effective,” Crane said. “I can assure you they are neither.”