A veteran Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent is facing suspension after he refused to release an illegal immigrant who was not considered a priority target under the Obama Administration’s new immigration enforcement policies, according to documents provided exclusively to Fox News.
“They’re punishing law enforcement officers who are just trying to uphold U.S. law,” said Chris Crane, president of the National ICE Council. Crane is a union representative acting on the unidentified officer’s behalf.
The officer under fire is an 18-year law enforcement and military veteran.
On March 27 he and another officer were conducting surveillance on a vehicle in Newark, Del. with plates that were registered to a criminal alien target. During the surveillance, they observed an individual get into the vehicle. The person was detained, questioned and taken to an ICE office so that his fingerprints could be run through a federal database.
The individual was not their criminal alien target. However, he was a 35-year-old illegal immigrant from Mexico who had ten previous traffic violations – including driving without a license.
“The officer made the determination using prosecutorial discretion that he would charge (the suspect) as being in the United States illegally and let the judge sort it out,” Crane said.
“That’s our place in the universe,” he said. “We’re supposed to make arrests and let the judges and the legal system sort through the details.”
Instead, two supervising officers, including the acting field director, intervened and ordered the officer to release the illegal immigrant. The acting field director sat down with the illegal and explained that he was going to be let go because he was not a “presidential priority,” Crane said.
In essence, the supervising officers took on the role of a public defender.
“You had the supervisors intervening with the alien to assist the alien and counsel the alien on avoiding receiving a charging document,” he said.
The officer’s supervisors ordered the officer to release the illegal – an order the officer refused.
According to a “Notice of Proposed Suspension,” dated July 19, the officer “failed to follow these supervisory instructions, when you arrested a non-targeted alien who did not appear to meet any of the ICE priorities.”
A memorandum from Assistant Field Office Director David O’Neill, written the morning of the incident, reveals that the officers were told to release the subject even though he was in the country illegally.
The officer “became agitated and began to raise his voice and stated that he would not do as instructed,” O’Neill wrote in his memo.
As a result of disobeying the order to release a known criminal, the officer faces a three-day suspension and could ultimately lose his job and pension if he arrests another illegal not on the Obama administration’s priority list.
“They’re willing to take away their retirement, their job, their ability to support their families in favor of someone who is here illegally and violating our laws,” Crane told Fox News. “Right now (the Obama administration) is standing in the way of us enforcing the law by either taking a disciplinary action, threats of disciplinary action, or refusing to sign off on charging documents to put an illegal alien into immigration proceedings so a judge can sort it out.”
A spokesman for ICE told Fox News they will not discuss “ongoing personnel matters.”
“ICE officers are not disciplined for lawful arrests,” the spokesperson said. “They may, however, be subject to discipline for insubordination and failure to follow agency polices and directives, among other reasons.”
Ironically, the illegal alien in this particular incident was given better treatment than an American citizen would have been in similar circumstances.
A spokesman for the Newark Police Dept. told Fox News that if an American had been stopped on the same charges – they would have been put in jail. The spokesman said officers would have let the judge sort out the details.
Crane said that’s the way it used to be – until President Obama loosened restrictions on illegal immigrants.
“Our hands are tied much more than your average police officer,” Crane said. “Normally an officer would have made an arrest like this, processed him, put the paper work in front of the supervisor and they would have signed off on it.”
At the heart of the issue are significant changes announced in June by the Dept. of Homeland Security. The new rules outlined how younger illegal immigrants could stay in the country and gain work permits through the use of “prosecutorial discretion.”
Crane said agents in the field disputed the idea of prosecutorial discretion.
“This whole prosecutorial discretion thing is a big lie,” he said. “The administration is trying to say it gives us more flexibility to release people. It’s garbage. These are orders – very clear orders that you will release people.”
The policy allows for discretion involving individuals who have not been convicted of a “felony offense, a significant misdemeanor offense, multiple misdemeanor offenses, or otherwise poses a threat to national security or public safety; and is not above the age of thirty.”
The illegal immigrant in this case had 10 traffic violations and is 35-years-old.
And it’s not the first time that ICE agents have found themselves frustrated by Obama’s new policy. Last month an illegal immigrant injured an officer during an attempted escape in El Paso. Assaulting a federal officer is considered a federal crime. However, because the suspect was not a priority target, he was released without any criminal or immigration charges.
“We can’t do anything anymore under these new guidelines,” he added. “
As a result, he said, an 18-year law enforcement veteran has to pay the price — and somewhere in the nation, a 35-year-old illegal immigrant is driving on a roadway without a license.
“If a law enforcement officer can’t perform routine enforcement functions, what do we have a law enforcement agency for,” Crane wondered.