The Obama administration stealth amnesty scandal that emerged last year is heating up. It all began with an internal U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services memo outlining ways the Obama administration could bypass Congress to enact amnesty for millions of illegal aliens through “administrative means.”
And then the Houston Chronicle exposed an effort by the administration to suspend the deportations of illegal aliens that supposedly have not been convicted of any “serious” crimes.
JW filed two FOIA lawsuits against the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to get to the truth about this deportation plan. And according to documents our litigation recently pried loose, not only did Obama administration officials skirt congressional authority when implementing this unlawful scheme behind closed doors, but apparently they also lied about it when they got caught.
The documents, which we obtained from the Obama DHS, show that DHS officials misled Congress and the public about the scope of the immigration enforcement policy change which gave wide latitude to local immigration officials to dismiss illegal alien deportation cases.
And perhaps most shocking of all, officials considered the dismissal of charges against illegal alien criminals convicted of violent crimes!
The documents concern the response by Houston immigration officials to a June 30, 2010, memo from John Morton, Director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), to all ICE employees instructing local immigration officials to use their discretion in “prioritizing” illegal immigration deportation cases.
This new policy resulted in the dismissal of hundreds of immigration cases and an overall 40% increase in deportation dismissals with local Houston ICE officials taking a particularly aggressive approach to the policy’s implementation.
In response to calls by members of the Senate Judiciary Committee for more information regarding this new, relaxed, deportation policy, DHS spokesman Matt Chandler said, “The idea that DHS is engaged in ‘selective enforcement’ couldn’t be further from the truth.” However, the documents uncovered by Judicial Watch show that Houston immigration officials moved quickly to implement a broad interpretation of Morton’s memo, earning praise from ICE agency headquarters:
- Email from Gary Goldman, Chief Counsel for Houston ICE to Riah Ramlogan, ICE’s Director of Field Operations, August 6, 2010:
I was uncertain whether to write you this short note but I am comfortable in doing so.
In brief, I will push every policy that was disseminated to the Chief Counsels to my staff…effectively and quickly. I understand the responsibilities of my position and I take great pride in my work. I will…ensure each attorney is fully knowledgeable and compliant with policies regarding courtroom expectations, written work, humanitarian cases, reporting requirements, etc.
(Ramlogan’s response to Goldman’s efforts, August 10, 2010: “Outstanding, Gary.”)
- Memo from Goldman to all attorneys, Office of Chief Counsel, August 12, 2010 (ultimately rescinded per the instruction of ICE headquarters):
Beginning immediately on all duty files and court files every attorney must determine whether the case may be amenable to the exercise of prosecutorial discretion pursuant to guidelines outlined in the June 30, 2010 Assistant Secretary John Morton memorandum…If the crime is remote in time and the alien has a substantial number of equities, all factors will be weighed to determine if an exercise of PD [prosecutorial discretion] is appropriate.
- Memo from Goldman to all attorneys, Office of Chief Counsel, August 16, 2010 (ultimately rescinded per the instruction of ICE headquarters):
ICE Senior Leadership does not want their attorneys to merely fill a seat in immigration court and blindly prosecute every case handed to them. The current administration wants attorneys of greater sophistication, independence and complexity in decision making…
Moreover, despite the claims of immigration officials, ICE considered ending deportation proceeding for illegal aliens with violent crime offenses. A spreadsheet obtained by Judicial Watch lists the specific violent crimes that immigration officials were prepared to overlook. They include: sexual assault, solicitation of murder, aggravated assault, assaulting a police officer, and kidnapping, as well as numerous drug charges.
A far cry from the “very narrow class of illegal immigrants with pending green card applications” Obama administration officials described to the press, wouldn’t you say?
The documents also show that following the press coverage of the memo, which resulted in widespread outrage, immigration officials sought to contain the damage by narrowing the scope of the policy change:
- An email from Raphael Choi, Chief Counsel for Arlington ICE to Gary Goldman, August 18, 2010:
…in-house I’m way behind. We continue to review cases piecemeal. The problem is every time I’m about to wield a blunt instrument to our docket, some case shows up in the press that gives me pause. I think its [sic] given Riah pause too.
- Letter from Ramlogan to Goldman on the day the Houston Chronicle exposed the new policy on deportations, August 25, 2010:
I am concerned that your interpretation of the memorandum, although well-intentioned, could create a gap in basic immigration enforcement. Your approach that our attorneys should only litigate cases within the agency’s highest priorities is not an accurate interpretation of the Assistant Secretary’s guidance and is not consistent with agency policy…please immediately rescind your memoranda.
(Note: Ramlogan had been provided a copy of Goldman’s memo on August 10, 2010 but provided no comment until the day the Houston Chronicle story was published.)
The June 30, 2010, memo that kicked off our investigation is not the last we’ve heard from John Morton regarding deportations. On June 17, 2011, John Morton sent yet another memo to all field officers, special agents and chief counsel to further define the term “prosecutorial discretion.”
And what does he mean by “prosecutorial discretion?”
Here’s how Morton defines the term: “In basic terms, prosecutorial discretion is the authority of an agency charged with enforcing a law to decide to what degree to enforce the law against a particular individual.”
I would describe it as a permission slip for immigration authorities to ignore federal immigration law. And here’s what I mean.
Thanks to Morton’s new mandate, immigration officials can cancel deportation proceedings against illegal aliens, release illegal aliens on bond, ignore certain kinds of criminal conduct, “settle or dismiss” a proceeding and make a host of other broadly defined immigration enforcement decisions.
And what kind of mitigating factors will these immigration officials consider when deciding which illegal aliens to let off the hook? Morton covers that as well.
An illegal alien’s “length of presence” in the U.S., pursuit of education, age, ties to the community and other factors will all be taken into account. Even the pregnancy status of an illegal alien can be considered, with illegal aliens who are “nursing” apparently at the top of the list for preferential treatment. (Important to note, the children of illegal aliens born in the United States, called “anchor babies,” automatically become U.S. citizens. According to the Pew Hispanic Center, “In total, 4 million U.S.-born children of unauthorized immigrant parents resided in this country in 2009.”)
Overall, Morton has 19 mitigating factors on his list, which he says is “not exhaustive.” And he does not bother to couch his directive carefully: “[T]he universe of opportunities to exercise prosecutorial discretion is large,” Morton writes. And regarding timing, “It is also preferable for ICE officers, agents and attorneys to consider prosecutorial discretion in cases without waiting for an alien or alien’s advocate or counsel to request a favorable exercise of discretion.”
In other words, it appears that not only does Morton want a “large universe” of illegal aliens to be released. He wants them released quickly.
Morton claims this new policy will help preserve precious government resources, but let’s get real. The Obama administration doesn’t care a whit about government spending. In fact, “the more the better,” has been the Obama mantra. This is just a bald-faced attempt to enact stealth amnesty policies without having to persuade Congress or the American people to change the law.
Morton’s new policies have understandably elicited strong opposition from members of Congress. Congressman Lamar Smith (R-TX), for example, announced recently that he plans to fight against Morton’s new directive:
While this authority is justifiable when exercised responsibly, the Obama administration has made clear that it plans not to use but abuse these powers. That is why I will soon introduce legislation to prevent the Obama administration from abusing this authority. The Obama administration cannot continue to pick and choose which laws it will enforce. It is outrageous that they have put illegal immigrants and their liberal political base ahead of the American people.
We couldn’t agree more.
There is no question these documents show that the Obama administration is implementing “stealth amnesty,” which is an end-run around the rule of law and Congress.
The Obama administration doesn’t seem to care about its constitutional responsibility to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed,” but instead is pushing the selective enforcement of immigration laws. And they are thumbing their noses at Congress and the American people by stonewalling information requests and lying to cover up their stealth amnesty scheme. Congress should initiate a full investigation to get to the truth of the matter. This lawlessness must stop.
By the way, if you want to know more about the illegal alien crisis in Houston, click here to read about our lawsuit on behalf of the widow of a police officer murdered by illegal aliens and here to read about the sex trafficking organization operated by illegal aliens right under the nose of the Houston Police Department.
As suspended deportations of illegal alien criminals continue, expect crime rates to climb.