ICE union resists immigration reform

In this March 30, 2012 photo,  Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents take a suspect into custody as part of a nationwide immigration sweep in...
In this March 30, 2012 photo, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents take a suspect into custody as part of a nationwide immigration sweep in...
AP Photo/Gregory Bull

The labor movement at large might be lining up behind the Democrats’ push for immigration reform, but at least one union isn’t happy about it: the National ICE Council 118, which represents agents in the Department of Homeland Security’s immigration enforcement wing, is demanding broader latitude to arrest and deport undocumented immigrants.

In testimony delivered to the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, Council 118 president Chris Crane laid out the agency’s stark demands for broader enforcement authority. “ICE is now guided in large part by the influences of powerful special interest groups that advocate on behalf of illegal aliens,” he said. “These influences have in large part eroded the order, stability and effectiveness of the agency, creating confusion among all ICE employees.”

The result, suggested Crane, was widespread “low morale” among ICE agents, which he implied may have contributed to “the tragic shooting in a Los Angeles ICE office last year, in which an ICE Agent shot his own supervisor and was himself shot and killed by another ICE employee.”

Crane highlighted limited authority to arrest and deport undocumented immigrants as one of the biggest contributors to low morale. In particular, he singled out the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which grants tens of thousands of young immigrants a temporary reprieve from deportation.

Said Crane, “News has spread quickly through illegal alien populations within jails and communities that immigration agents have been instructed by the agency not to investigate illegal aliens who claim protections from immigration arrest under DACA.” Additionally, he bemoaned the fact that current policy prohibits ICE from prosecuting individuals for illegal entry or overstaying a visa unless they had also been convicted for criminal misdemeanors.

The ICE union head’s testimony earned a sharp rebuke from Sarah Uribe, the national campaign coordinator for the National Day Labor Organizing Network.

“The mandate for reform is to protect families that belong together from being separated by ICE’s wrongful arrests and deportations,” she told msnbc Tuesday. “ICE is a rogue agency whose leadership has a history of lying to the public and has repeatedly violated even the President’s stated priorities.”

Council 118’s campaign against immigration reform extends beyond giving congressional testimony. Last August, Crane and nine other ICE officials filed a lawsuit intended to block DACA. And though the ICE union is affiliated with the AFL-CIO, America’s largest labor federation, Crane has publicly repudiated AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka’s pro-reform stance.

“With most of the nation’s immigration enforcement experts at his fingertips, to include immigration officers, agents and attorneys, Trumka has refused our union input on comprehensive immigration reform,” said Crane in a statement last week.

Though the American labor movement has not always had a comfortable relationship with immigrants, Trumka and other labor leaders have become increasingly enthusiastic about immigration reform over the years. On Thursday, Trumka will discuss the AFL-CIO’s plans for a nationwide campaign on behalf of  reform and a road map to citizenship.

ICE union resists immigration reform