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Sen. Sessions Calls for ICE Director John Morton to Step Down

author Published by Chris Chmielenski

In the wake of a federal judge’s decision last week one the lawsuit filed against the federal government by a group of 10 ICE agents, Sen. Jeff Sessions is calling for ICE Director John Morton to step down. In 2010, the National Immigration and Customs Enforcement Council voted unanimously that they have no confidence in Morton’s ability to lead the agency.

Sen. Sessions, who also serves on the Senate Judiciary Committee and Immigration Subcommittee, called for Morton’s resignation on the Senate floor. Morton has ordered ICE agents to not enforce federal immigration laws, and he’s gutted worksite enforcement and the 287(g) program, which is a cooperative effort between local law enforcement and federal immigration agents. 

The evidence that I am about to share with you leads me to the unfortunate conclusion that Mr. Morton can no longer effectively serve at his post and—perhaps more importantly—there can be no comprehensive immigration reform as long as he is the person charged with enforcing it. What purpose is served to pass new laws if the ones we have are ignored by officials charged with enforcing them?

Sen. Sessions then laid out a timeline of Morton’s actions as Director of ICE.

May 19, 2010: In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, Director Morton announces that ICE may not even process or accept illegal aliens transferred to the agency’s custody by Arizona officials.

May 27, 2010: An ICE email reveals that “low-risk,” short-time detainees will be able to have visitors stay for an unlimited amount of time during a 12-hour window, be given access to unmonitored phone lines, email, and free internet calling. They will also be entertained with movie nights, bingo, arts and crafts, dance and cooking classes, tutoring, and computer training.

June 25, 2010: The National ICE Council, the union that represents more than 7,000 detention and removal agents within ICE, casts a unanimous vote of “No Confidence” in Director Morton. According to the union, the vote reflects “the growing dissatisfaction among ICE employees and Union Leaders that Director Morton… has abandoned the Agency’s core mission of enforcing United States immigration laws and enforcing public safety, and have instead directed their attention to campaigning for programs and policies relating to amnesty…”

August 2010: ICE begins circulating a draft policy that would significantly limit the circumstances under which ICE would take custody of illegal aliens. The memo provides that immigration officers shall issue detainers—or official notification to local law enforcement agencies that ICE intends to assume custody of the alien—only after a law enforcement agency has independently arrested the alien for a criminal violation. Thus, in effect, no longer will ICE pick up an illegal alien for illegally entering the country or with false ID or false immigration documents.

October 8, 2010: According to ICE’s deportation statistics, from October 2009 until September 2010 the agency deported over 390,000 illegal aliens. Roughly half of the deportations—more than 195,000—were of criminal illegal aliens. However, they fail to mention that while the deportation of criminal illegal aliens has risen, the change in the total number of overall deportations is statistically insignificant. In fact, the number of deportations of non-criminal illegal aliens has decreased.

December 6, 2010: Interviews and internal communications cited in the Washington Post indicate the record number of over 390,000 deportations was padded. First, the article charges that ICE included 19,422 removals in FY2010 that were really from the previous fiscal year. The Post article also describes how ICE extended a Mexican repatriation program beyond its normal operation dates, adding 6,500 to the final removal numbers.

March 2, 2011: In a departmental memorandum, Director Morton outlines new “enforcement priorities” and encourages immigration agents to not enforce the law against most illegal aliens, but to only take action against those who meet these “priorities.”

June 17, 2011: Director Morton issues a second memorandum further directing ICE agents to refrain from enforcing U.S. immigration laws against certain segments of the illegal alien population—criteria similar to that under the DREAM Act—despite having no legal or congressional authority and despite the fact that the DREAM Act was three times defeated in Congress.

June 17, 2011: Director Morton issues a third memorandum instructing ICE personnel to consider refraining from enforcing the law against individuals engaging in a protected activity related to civil or other rights (for example, union organizing or complaining to authorities about employment discrimination or housing conditions) who may be in a nonfrivolous dispute with an employer, landlord, or contractor.

June 23, 2011: Leaders of the national ICE union express outrage over the June 17 administrative amnesty memoranda authored by Director Morton. The law officers say that since the Administration was “unable to pass its immigration agenda through legislation, [it] is now implementing it through agency policy.” It also accuses top ICE officials of working “hand-in-hand” with the open-borders lobby, while excluding its own officers from the policy development process. In plain words, they are saying the political appointees of ICE are advancing the agenda of those here illegally and maneuvering against their own law officers trying to do their duty.

June 27, 2011: Internal memoranda confirm that once the Houston Chronicle (on August 24, 2010) exposed DHS’ directive to review and dismiss valid deportation cases then in process, ICE officials attempted to publicly distance themselves from such lenient policies and deny that they ever existed.

October 12, 2011: In testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, Director Morton admits that White House Director of Intergovernmental Affairs and former National Council of La Raza employee (now White House Domestic Policy Director) Cecilia Muñoz assisted in preparation of the administrative amnesty memoranda.

October 18, 2011: ICE refuses to take any action after the Santa Clara County, California, Board of Supervisors votes 3-1 to stop using county funds to honor ICE detainers, except in limited circumstances.

October 19, 2011: ICE refuses to act after District of Columbia Mayor Vincent Gray issues an executive order to prevent D.C. police from enforcing U.S. immigration law. Among other things, the order prohibits all public safety agencies from inquiring about an individual’s immigration status or from contacting ICE if there is no nexus to a criminal investigation.

November 22, 2011: ICE refuses to act after New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg signs a measure ordering all city jails to ignore certain ICE detainers issued to deport illegal aliens from those jails. As a result, New York City jails now release many illegal aliens back into the community instead of handing them over to ICE for removal.

December 15, 2011: Without an opportunity to defend itself, and with little regard for the maintenance of public safety or the rule of law, DHS rescinds Maricopa County, Arizona’s 287(g) agreement—a cooperative agreement whereby local law enforcement receive training in identifying and apprehending illegal aliens. Director Morton tells the Maricopa County Attorney that ICE will no longer respond to calls from the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office involving traffic stops, civil infractions, or “other minor offenses.” However, it is unclear how ICE can refuse to respond to inquiries from the deputies and not directly violate federal law, which requires the federal government to respond to inquiries by law enforcement agencies to verify immigration status.

December 29, 2011: ICE creates a 24-hour hotline for illegal alien detainees to be staffed by the Law Enforcement Support Center—the same organization that ICE says is too understaffed to keep up with immigration status check requests from state and local law enforcement. ICE then revises its detainer form to include a new provision that says ICE should “consider this request for a detainer operative only upon the subject’s conviction.” This shift in policy to a discretionary “post-conviction” model ignores the fact that being in the country illegally is a violation of federal law while simultaneously welcoming criminal aliens back onto the streets.

January 19, 2012: ICE attorneys in Denver and Baltimore recommend that the agency voluntarily close 1,667 removal cases, resulting in the release of illegal aliens already in proceedings without consequence for violating U.S. immigration laws.

February 7, 2012: ICE announces the creation of the ICE Public Advocate, who is to serve as a point of contact for aliens in removal proceedings, community and advocacy groups, and others who have concerns, questions, recommendations, or other issues they would like to raise about the Administration’s executive enforcement and amnesty efforts.

April 25, 2012: ICE officials announce the agency has offered to voluntarily close over 16,500 illegal alien deportation cases pending background checks in connection with the Administration’s review of 300,000 pending immigration cases. The Administration also announces that the number of illegal aliens whose cases it has already dismissed is up to 2,700 from just over 1,500 the previous month.

April 27, 2012: ICE shifts its policy on Secure Communities, where local officers report arrests of persons who are here illegally, to stop the enforcement of immigration law against illegal aliens apprehended for “minor traffic offenses.” When Secure Communities identifies illegal aliens pursuant to a traffic offense, ICE will no longer ask the local jails to detain the illegal aliens so that ICE may begin deportation proceedings; rather, ICE will only consider detaining an alien if the alien is ultimately convicted of the offense. Moreover, despite claims of limited resources, ICE also announced it plans to take action against jurisdictions with arrest rates the agency deems too high.

June 5, 2012: ICE releases its latest statistics in its case-by-case review of pending deportation cases and states the Agency’s attorneys have reviewed over 288,000 cases. Of those reviewed, ICE says it plans to voluntarily dismiss 20,648; it states over 4,300 of these cases have already been processed and the remaining will be closed pending background checks.

For more infomation, see Sen. Sessions’ website.

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