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ICE agents file suit to block immigration deferred action program

Kris Kobach

Ten Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents filed a lawsuit against DHS secretary Janet Napolitano and ICE director John Morton looking to block the recently-implemented deferred action initiative for undocumented minors saying it forces them to violate federal immigration law.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program protecting some illegal alien minors from deportation went into effect on Aug. 15. The program allows some undocumented children and young adults to remain in the U.S. for two years as students if they meet a list of eligibility requirements.

The ten agents said that in not pursuing removal proceedings under the DACA program, they have to disobey immigration law and their oaths to uphold it and fear the Department of Homeland Security will punish them if they refuse to follow the new program.

DHS spokesman Matt Chandler told reporters that the deferral program allows the department to focus on serious offenders like convicted criminals, repeat immigration law violators and more recent border crossers. He said it was a temporary measure applied to a pernicious problem that ultimately has to be fixed by congress.  

The suit was announced and backed by the immigration group NumbersUSA which has opposed more lenient immigration policy. The action also had the support from some Congressional opponents of the policy, as well as AFGE’s National ICE council president Chris Crane, who is a plaintiff in the suit. The agents are represented by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who has also served as an advisor to presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

“Both the Directive and memorandum command our agents to violate federal law and our oaths to uphold federal law.  We are federal law enforcement officers who are being ordered to break the law.  This directive puts ICE agents and officers in a horrible position,” said Crane.

“This Directive not only circumvents Congress, it also infringes on the plaintiffs’ ability to fulfill the oath they made to uphold the laws of this country.  The plaintiffs seek to prevent law enforcement officers from being forced to either violate federal law if they comply with the Directive or risk adverse employment action if they disobey the unlawful orders of the DHS Secretary,” said Kobach.

A number of Washington lawmakers also voice support for the legal action. Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) chairman of the House Judiciary Committee said the deferral program not only puts ICE agents in an awkward position, but also threatens jobs for Americans looking for work in a bad economy.