Ten ICE agents, including one from the Dallas office, are suing ICE and Homeland Security in a Dallas federal court over a directive from President Barack Obama that would defer in some cases the deportation of undocumented immigrants brought here as children. Dallas enforcement and removal officer David A. Engle and the other agents say the policy would force them to violate their oaths to uphold federal law.
The plaintiffs are represented by immigration warrior and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who helped author and defend Arizona's controversial immigration law, along with a Farmers Branch ordinance intended to prevent undocumented immigrants from renting apartments and houses within the city limits.
Obama's directive, a watered-down DREAM Act without the promise of permanent legal immigration status, would grant a two-year deportation deferral to undocumented immigrants brought here under the age of 16. The beneficiaries have to have a high-school education or military service and no criminal record.
The policy was envisioned as a humane way to lighten the burden on backlogged immigration courts and strained detention facilities. Republicans claim the directive, potentially applicable to nearly two million undocumented immigrants, is a naked bid for the Hispanic vote, amounting to little more than backdoor amnesty.
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Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano countered that the policy grants undocumented immigrants a deferral, not lawful immigration status. Nevertheless, the ICE agents claim it violates the Immigration and Nationality Act, though the law does give immigration officials the ability to use discretion.
Chris Crane, one of the plaintiffs, is also the president of the National ICE Council, the union representing agents. The union issued a vote of no confidence in ICE director John Morton in 2010, protesting a policy that would focus enforcement and removal operations on criminal aliens. The union's rank and file has a history of bucking edicts from agency leadership, and some agents now claim they have been disciplined for issuing notices to appear before an immigration judge to noncriminal immigrants.
ICE brass say they are simply using their finite resources prudently. The lawsuit asks a federal judge to strike the directive.