Commentary

Bill Gives DHS Sec. 'Virtually Unlimited Discretion to Waive Any Manner of Crimes,' ICE Council Warns Congress

By Craig Bannister | May 9, 2013 | 11:39am EDT

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) entered a letter from law enforcement officials nationwide warning of the dangers of the immigration bill S.744 into the judiciary committee record today.

The letter To Congress from the National Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Council of the American Federation of Government Employees Affiliated with AFL-CIO warns of the discretionary power the bill gives to “political appointees” and takes away from law enforcers:

“Congress can and must take decisive steps to limit the discretion of political appointees and empower ICE and CBP to perform their respective missions and enforce the laws enacted by Congress. Rather than limiting the power of those political appointees within DHS, S. 744 provides them with nearly unlimited discretion, which will serve only to further cripple the law enforcement missions of these agencies.”

They warn that the Senate immigration bill gives DHS Sec. Janet Napolitano “virtually unlimited discretion to waiver” prohibitions on obtaining legal status, such as criminal activity or previous deportation:

“This same section (Section 2101 of S. 744) gives the Secretary of Homeland Security virtually unlimited discretion to waive any manner of crimes that would otherwise make an individual ineligible for legal status––for such expansive reasons as family unity, humanitarian purposes, or what the Secretary believes is in the public interest.”

“At least two of these standards appear undefined by S. 744 or current law, providing political appointees with broad authority to establish their own definitions of these terms and pardon criminal acts under almost any circumstance.”

“The bill states that individuals who have previously been deported or otherwise removed from the country are ineligible to apply for legal status. However, the Secretary is given the 'sole and unreviewable discretion' to waive that ineligibility for large classes of qualifying aliens.”

In seven instances, the bill grants "unreviewable" powers.

The letter concludes that ICE officers would continue to be “powerless” to protect the public and do their jobs if the bill becomes law:

“If this legislation were enacted tomorrow, ICE officers would continue to be powerless to effectively enforce our nation’s laws and provide for public safety as S. 744 does nothing to end these dangerous agency- and department-level directives.”

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