Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Border Patrol officers—along with their families—are living in fear and uncertainty every day under President Barack Obama’s executive amnesty, Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) told Breitbart News in an exclusive interview on Monday night.
“What does the average family member of an ICE agent think?” Lankford said when asked what’s going through the minds of agents as the president is telling them to ignore the law.
They know their spouse, their husband or wife, their mom or dad, when they leave every morning, they’re literally putting their lives on the line as a federal law enforcement individual and going into some very dangerous duties. They’re watching their loved ones step out the door, and they don’t know what the policy is they’re protecting anymore. Will they arrest someone that they’ll then get in trouble for arresting?
They literally put their life on the line doing something they could face “consequences” for when two years ago that was the right thing to do, and suddenly now there’s someone saying no that’s the wrong thing to do—all while the people we know who are breaking the law are either let go, or get special treatment, or they get the preference and the law enforcement person gets the “consequences.”
It’s very difficult for the family members of ICE agents, and it’s very difficult for ICE agents to know what’s right and what’s wrong and why should I get engaged and go out there and enforce the law when I don’t know what it means any more to have consequences.
Lankford’s interview came as he and the head of both the ICE officers’s and the Border Patrol officers’s unions are publicly pressing President Obama for some kind of response to a letter the senator sent to the president last week.
In the Feb. 27 letter, Lankford asked Obama to explain what he meant when he said at a town hall meeting in Miami that there would be “consequences” for immigration agents who enforce the law rather than follow the president’s executive amnesty order.
“Look, the bottom line is, is that if somebody is working for ICE and there is a policy and they don’t follow the policy, there are going to be consequences to it,” Obama said at the town hall when asked how he plans to force ICE and Border Patrol agents to implement his executive amnesty. “So I can’t speak to a specific problem. What I can talk about is what’s true in the government, generally. In the U.S. military, when you get an order, you’re expected to follow it. It doesn’t mean that everybody follows the order. If they don’t, they’ve got a problem. And the same is going to be true with respect to the policies that we’re putting forward.”
In the letter, Lankford noted that Obama’s executive amnesty action was found to have “violated the Administrative Procedure Act” by a federal judge—Judge Andrew S. Hanen—who ordered an injunction immediately halting its implementation while the appeals process played out through the courts. A federal appeals court has not overturned the injunction as of this time, and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Jeh Johnson announced that the government “must comply with” the injunction.
“Earlier this month, a federal district court judge found that the executive action — the very policies you mentioned in your statement during the Miami town hall meeting — violated the Administration Procedure Act and enjoined implementation,” Lankford wrote to Obama, noting too that Johnson said DHS needs to cooperate with the court’s ruling.
“However, your statements during the Miami town hall meeting conveyed the opposite opinion and even threatened consequences for DHS staff that fail to carry out the policies,” Lankford wrote. “In July of 2014, Secretary Johnson provided written testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, stating that ‘morale has been low within various components of the Department.’ This was a gross understatement given that the Department finished last among large federal agencies in the 2014 Best Places To Work In The Federal Government survey.”
Lankford then listed out five specific questions for the president, asking for answers by Friday, March 6.
“What are the specific consequences an ICE agent will face if he or she respects the judge’s ruling and fails to follow your policies?” Lankford asked Obama.
How will the threat and implementation of such consequences impact the already low morale within the Homeland Security Department? How should agents balance their oath to defend the Constitution with your order to follow policies that a federal court deemed in violation of federal law? Since you specifically mentioned the U.S. military in your town hall statement, will consequences also ensue for our nation’s service members or other federal employees who fail to follow one of your announced policies, regardless of whether it’s constitutional or not? What written or verbal direction have you given to Secretary Johnson to implement and enforce these consequences? If written communications exist, please provide a copy.
Now several days past the stated deadline, Lankford has received no answer from Obama or anyone at the White House on his behalf in response to those basic questions.
“I’m waiting for his response on that, and we’re going to continue to try and press on that,” Lankford said in his interview with Breitbart News.
We’ve spent some time in my office talking with ICE employees, talking with DHS employees, federal employees, asking their impression of morale and what this means to them—they’re all incredibly frustrated and morale is terrible. The president of the United States is basically telling them they’re going to have “consequences”—they’re unknown consequences, nobody knows what they are—if they actually follow the law and do their job. Right now, the president is not giving consequences to people who cross the border illegally, but there will be consequences to those who enforce the law. It’s like the whole world is on its head.
Lankford is joined by National ICE Council president Chris Crane and National Border Patrol Council president Brandon Judd in asking for Obama to step forward and answer these questions.
“While in the military I was never asked to violate the law or the Constitution of the United States, but that’s exactly what the President is ordering ICE officers to do,” Crane said.
To publicly threaten law enforcement officers and their families for enforcing laws enacted by Congress is an unthinkable and unprecedented act by a sitting President, and this while he essentially pardons and provides benefits to millions who have violated the nation’s immigration laws. It’s ironic to hear the President speak of consequences for ICE agents, when he and the millions he will pardon are the only ones who have acted outside the law. Now dead last in employee morale among 314 federal agencies nationwide, ICE is crumbling under the strain of this Administration’s lawless policies and utter disregard for our law enforcement officers and their families. Any efforts by Senator Lankford and others on our behalf is greatly appreciated.
“Every day our agents put their lives on the line to protect our communities from human smugglers, dangerous drugs and violent criminals,” Judd added. “Border Patrol agents, when charged with enforcing a new law or policy, want and deserve clear guidance on how to accomplish that goal. The President’s threat and unwillingness to answer Senator Lankford’s inquiries make it more difficult for agents to accomplish their mission. Border security will only be further degraded by this confusion.”
Lankford said that federal agents are being pulled in every which direction—the law says to do one thing, the DHS secretary says to do another, and the president tells them to do yet another different thing—and that it’s very difficult for them.
“The day after the judge ruled in Texas, Jeh Johnson—who’s the head of DHS—came out and said ‘we will follow the injunction,’” Lankford said.
“We’re going to follow the judge’s instructions. We’re right in court, but we’re going to wait and resolve this in court before we move on.” A week later, the president comes out and says something completely different—that his policy is what rules the day and that if a DHS employee doesn’t follow his policy there will be consequences, unstated consequences whatever they are. Now if you’re an ICE agent, you’ve got Jeh Johnson—your immediate boss at DHS—saying we’re going to follow the court and the judge, and then you’ve got Jeh Johnson’s boss, the president, saying no if you do that, you’re going to face consequences.
You’ve also got your oath of office that you have assumed a federal law enforcement officer—and you have to pick which one you’re going to follow. It puts you in a very difficult spot, which is the reason why I’ve pressed this with the White House and I’ll continue to press it. This is an intolerable situation for federal employees and this unknown will-be consequences is inappropriate. DHS already has one of the lowest morale rates of all of the federal government. This is only makes it worse.
Lankford also told Breitbart News that the negative effects this inconsistency from the administration has on the rule of law in America—the rule of law is crucial to any thriving democracy—are dangerous.
“This is why it’s bad to run a country by executive order, because our nation runs on laws—when everyone knows the law and everyone knows what it is, you know both the law and the consequence and you get that.” Lankford continuted:
You may end up breaking the law, but you also know the consequence that’s behind it—everyone knows the boundaries. When a president makes up law as he goes, no one knows what the law is anymore. No one knows what’s right and wrong because they’re waiting for the president to determine what’s right and wrong—that’s not how our country has historically run. You’ve got this confusing way—being a federal employee or just a normal taxpaying citizen—you don’t have any trust anymore for what the law is.
Many of the people who are fleeing from countries to come here illegally are fleeing from countries where the leader of that country makes up law as they go and the country is unstable. So they’re literally fleeing from a country, and they end up in a country where they think things are better—and they are, these are the United States of America—but now our leader is trying to run this country like other leaders, where illegals are fleeing from, run theirs. We can’t have that. That’s not based on the rule of law.
Lankford said that too many people in Washington don’t listen to the federal agents and employees, even though they’re screaming out for help—and they’ve usually got good ideas. Instead, it’s just politicians and special interests who get heard, not the boots on the ground. He’s trying to change that.
“It’s not just the ICE agents and Border Patrol agents,” Lankford said. “There are a lot of really solid patriotic Americans who work for the federal government.”
By the way, a lot of conservatives beat up on federal employees—but there are a lot of great, patriotic Americans who are working for this government who really believe in the values and principles of liberty, and they are stuck in the bureaucracy but no one is listening to them. They know how to answer and they know how to solve a lot of these problems, and no one is slowing down to actually solve any of the problems or listen to their ideas. Most of the conversation is what do people in think tanks consider about what is happening on the House or the Senate floor. People who live it and work it every single day have got to be heard in this process. They know the solutions to it. We’ve got to make sure we respect the folks who put their lives on the line every single day and that we’re listening to the things that they put out because they really do know what works and what doesn’t work.