In an exclusive Q&A with Breitbart News, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Council President Chris Crane provides never-before-heard details about the 2013 Gang of Eight immigration fight that are likely to shake up an already tumultuous presidential race.
ICE Council President, Crane represents the nation’s approximately 5,800 frontline ICE officers, agents and personnel who are responsible for enforcing America’s immigration laws in all 50 states and U.S. territories. For the first time ever, Crane details his behind-the-scenes interactions with Florida Marco Rubio as Crane sought to protect the nation’s ICE officers and national security.
Crane was integral to stopping Sen. Rubio’s amnesty plan from passing the House—which, as Sen. Jeff Sessions recently explained, “was a near-run thing.”
In his responses, Crane addresses an incident—first detailed by Breitbart News— in which Marco Rubio stood idly by as Crane was ejected from a Gang of Eight press conference for trying to ask a question on behalf of law enforcement.
Crane, an active duty ICE officer, has served as an officer for approximately 13 years and has been elected by his peers as the president of their union, as thus their voice on the national stage. Prior to joining ICE, Crane was a United States Marine.
What follows below are the complete, unedited responses of National ICE Council President Chris Crane.
BREITBART NEWS: It is well known that the Gang of Eight reached out to big business groups and amnesty groups in the process of writing the bill. When Sen. Rubio started writing his bill, did he reach out to you and other ICE officers for your ideas and input?
CRANE: Sen. Rubio never reached out to us. He surrounded himself with big business and amnesty groups, most of which were more interested in cheap labor and their own political agendas, and had no real concern for the welfare of immigrants, public safety, or the security of our nation. This while he ignored boots on the ground law enforcement officers who work within our broken immigration system every day and know better than any what’s needed to fix it. Common sense dictates that law enforcement be at the table when creating a bill like this. I think Sen. Rubio knew that, but actively chose to exclude us because of his own personal agenda.
BNN: Did Sen. Rubio meet with you voluntarily or did he have to be pressured into doing so at the last minute? Do you remember how you were ultimately able to secure the meeting? Did it take a long time?
CHRIS CRANE: It was definitely last minute as we met in the evening and they introduced the bill a few hours later that same night. It doesn’t get much more last minute than that. Was he pressured? I definitely think so. Not just by the public, but by some in the media as well. I think appearances on the Greta Van Susteren and Gov. Mike Huckabee shows are what tipped the balance and got us in. I think Gov. Huckabee was especially important in making the meeting happen, he was genuinely concerned that law enforcement was being excluded from the process and reached out to Sen. Rubio on our behalf. Many thanks to him for his attempts to help us.
BNN: What happened in the meeting? Did Sen. Rubio make any promises to you? Did he keep them?
CRANE: To start, even though I had requested to bring someone with me, Sen. Rubio denied the request and demanded that I come alone, which I still believe was highly peculiar and inappropriate.
He, of course, had what appeared to be his entire staff in his office with me. Most of his staff stood behind me as there was no place for them to sit. I raised a series of strong concerns with the bill, and as I raised each issue, Sen. Rubio would look to his staff and ask if that was what the bill said. Each time his staff agreed with my interpretation, and Sen. Rubio would shake his head in disbelief and indicate the bill had to be changed.
Sen. Rubio talked very specifically and very directly to me and his staff saying that the changes I suggested had to be made and specifically said that other Gang of Eight members wouldn’t be happy, but “Oh well.” Obviously the changes I suggested were all serious enforcement related issues, such as establishing a biometric entry-exit system, and cracking down on sex offenders, gang members, violent criminals and other criminal aliens.
When I walked out of his office that night I definitely thought the bill would undergo significant changes, but of course absolutely no changes were made.
BNN: Almost immediately after you met with Sen. Rubio, he introduced bill. Did it include any of the changes you asked for?
CRANE: Not one of the changes we suggested was made to the bill before Sen. Rubio introduced it.
All of his strong statements during our meeting about making the changes we suggested were apparently all just a dodge to get rid of me. It quickly became obvious why he didn’t permit me to take anyone with me to the meeting— he didn’t want any witnesses.
BNN: What happened during the press conference when you tried to ask Sen. Rubio and Chuck Schumer to take a question?
CRANE: I was polite, professional and respectful at all times. I didn’t interrupt anyone or cause a scene. The press was there, but Sen. Rubio and the rest of the Gang of Eight had also filled the large room with amnesty supporters and open borders people to cheer and applaud the Gang of Eight every time they said something. It was a real dog and pony show, sort of a circus.
Because it wasn’t your traditional closed press conference, it didn’t seem at all out of place to me, as an American citizen, to politely ask these elected officials a question about the legislation they were there to discuss. After all, I thought that Congress was the People’s House.
When the floor was opened to reporters to ask questions, I too politely raised my hand and asked, “Will you take a question from law enforcement?”
The amnesty folks immediately started making hateful comments like: you’re not welcome here, you need to leave, you have no right to speak here. A commotion took place on the stage with the Gang of Eight Senators. Sen. Rubio did look directly at me, and it appeared that he told Sen. Flake who I was.
Yet, despite having looked directly at me, Sen. Rubio did absolutely nothing to allow me to ask a question on behalf of the nation’s ICE officers, sheriffs and front line law enforcement.
I was able to ask the same question approximately two more times, before a Senate staffer accompanied by Capitol Hill police approached— demanding that they escort me out.
As I was escorted out by police, some within the amnesty groups applauded, laughed at me, and made hateful remarks. Once police escorted me outside of the main room, police informed me that I was not free to go and that I was to be taken somewhere for questioning.
As a law enforcement officer I knew that their actions met the legal standard for an arrest. At that point I demanded to know the charges against me and why I was being arrested. Television cameras, reporters and microphones came swooping in, and as they did the Senate staffer scurried away like a cockroach, leaving the Capitol Hill police on their own. I was allowed to leave the area, but I think it was only because the police were afraid to handcuff me with reporters filming them.
Senator Rubio and the Gang of Eight stood there and watched it all happen. Anyone of them could have jumped to the mic and yelled for the Senate staffer and the police to stop what they were doing to me, but none did. Sen. Rubio just stood their silently and watched it happen. I am told that Sen. Rubio later stated that I should not have been removed, but he never reached out to me to say that or apologize. To my knowledge he and the Gang of Eight never called for an investigation.
If it had been Mark Zuckerberg in the crowd asking questions the Gang of Eight Senators would have been tripping over themselves to kiss his backside, but as a normal citizen without the means to filter money into their campaigns they had me forced out by police.
BNN: What did you mean when you said in Congressional testimony: “Never before have I seen such contempt for law enforcement officers as what I’ve seen from the Gang of Eight”?
CRANE: As ICE officers, we wrote a letter to Congress expressing strong concerns with the Gang of Eight bill. The letter was endorsed by approximately 150 Sheriffs, to include Sheriff Sam Page of the National Sheriffs Association Border Security and Immigration Committee, as well the National Association of Former Border Patrol Officers and other law enforcement groups. Law enforcement officers were screaming for help from the Gang of Eight to make changes to the bill that would better provide for public safety and national security, but the Gang of Eight ignored all of them. The Gang of Eight not only ignored law enforcement, but actively fought to keep our input out. Only wealthy special interests like the Chamber of Commerce were permitted to be a part of the process. It was dirty D.C. politics at its worst.
BNN: Sen. Rubio touted his bill as “The Toughest Border Security & Enforcement Measures In U.S. History,” do you believe this was an honest representation of the bill?
CRANE: I think that’s absolutely false – there was no real promise or guarantee of stronger border security. The bill actually relinquished Congress’ authority to establish border security measures to the head of DHS. The head of DHS then had something like so six months to unilaterally develop a border security plan after the Gang of Eight bill passed.
So not only was there no real plan, but Sen. Rubio apparently thought that giving a presidentially appointed bureaucrat god-like powers over America’s immigration system was the answer to border security, this as other Republicans are fighting corrupt and incompetent bureaucrats in agencies like the IRS and Secret Service, not to mention the unlawful policies on immigration enforcement enacted by the current President. Rather than being touted as the toughest border security and enforcement plan in history, it could more accurately be touted as the worst.
BNN: Sen. Rubio pledged his bill would provide enforcement first, do you believe this was an honest representation the bill?
CRANE: No, I don’t believe it was an honest representation. Protection from deportation, a type of de facto amnesty, came almost immediately as the first step in a much broader amnesty like process provided in the bill. There was no real promise of border security in the bill, and the bill provided nothing for interior enforcement, but instead made legalization of criminal aliens and gang members a priority. People need to understand that this bill was written by pro-amnesty and open borders groups that have no concern for America’s borders or the safety of its communities. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the bill was such a lopsided mess.
BNN: Sen. Rubio’s bill legalized sex offenders, drunk drivers, and others with criminal records. From an ICE officer’s perspective, how do you feel about his decision to legalize illegal immigrants with criminal convictions?
CRANE: Under the Obama Administration, ICE released estimates stating that approximately 2 million criminal aliens resided in the U.S. That’s 10 times the size the U.S. Marine Corps, at least when I was in. And I think ICE’s estimates are low.
People need to wake up. We can’t continue to keep taking millions of the world’s criminals without expecting serious repercussions to public safety and expense and burden to our legal system. Local and state jurisdictions are already overwhelmed by the criminal alien problem in our country. To turn this around and get things back under control, the U.S. must take the opposite approach. We must send criminals back to their countries. Especially sex offenders. I can’t understand why any lawmaker or special interest group would support legalizing sex offenders, but it shows how out of control the bill really was.
BNN: In your letter, you specifically protested that the bill would legalize gang members. As an ICE officer, how do you feel that this provision was left in the bill?
CRANE: It disgusts me. Violent street gangs were literally able to lobby Sen. Rubio and the Gang of Eight more effectively than law enforcement, they had more influence on the bill than we did. Gangs were able to get provisions in the law to protect themselves. It’s absolutely insane. What on earth are our lawmakers thinking? I think it’s this type of utterly stupid lawmaking that has caused most Americans to lose faith in Congress.
BNN: Sen. Rubio was on television and radio constantly promoting his bill, which was backed by powerful special interests. What did you learn about Sen. Rubio’s character during that time?
CRANE: In my opinion, Sen. Rubio absolutely knowingly mislead the American people regarding the bill. He was not telling the American public the truth about what that bill contained. Every American will have to determine on their own what that says about his character, but for me I don’t think I’ll ever be able to trust him again.
BNN: What is life like for ICE officers, and what has Sen. Rubio done to help or hurt quality of life for ICE officers?
CRANE: Sen. Rubio has never done anything to help ICE officers do their jobs. With less than 5,000 officers in the United States, Guam, Puerto Rico, Saipan and the U.S. Virgin Islands, Senator Rubio’s Gang of Eight bill provided zero additional ICE officers and zero new resources for ICE officers to enforce U.S. immigration law on the interior of the U.S. This as almost half of all immigration violators entered the U.S. legally and overstayed their visas, so they would have never come in contact with the Border Patrol. So with a force half the size of the Los Angeles Police Department, ICE is tasked with apprehending and deporting over 11 million illegal aliens spread across the entire U.S.
But Sen. Rubio and the Gang of Eight gave ICE no additional resources. Why? Because they don’t want interior enforcement. Or I should say the Chamber of Commerce and other special interests involved in writing Sen. Rubio’s bill don’t want interior enforcement.
Last year, ICE was ranked 314th—or dead last— in morale among 314 federal agencies surveyed by the Office of Personnel Management. Survey data for this year indicates morale at ICE continued to drop this year, even though ICE ranked 318 out of 320 agencies surveyed.
ICE is literally crumbling from within, but efforts by Sen. Rubio and the Gang of Eight were clearly more focused on legalizing criminals than assisting this agency in turmoil.
BNN: Could you compare the Gang of Eight’s treatment of powerful special interests to the Gang of Eight’s treatment of law enforcement?
CRANE: Law enforcement was treated like absolute trash. Republicans and Democrats in the Gang of Eight saw law enforcement as the enemy.
We were the only ones really positioned to tell America that their bill was one big lie that wouldn’t fix our immigration problems but make them worse.
They did everything they could to keep us out of the picture and silent. Special interests on the other hand were treated like kings. It was all about money.
If we had the money, like the Chamber of Commerce and Mark Zuckerberg, we could buy America an immigration law that put the safety of both the American public and immigrants first, but we don’t. So it looks like America will have to settle for the open borders and cheap labor plan the Chamber of Commerce is buying.
BNN: Has Sen. Rubio ever reached out to apologize to you for any of his broken promises during Gang of Eight? Has he ever reached out to you to get ICE officer input for his presidential campaign?
CRANE: Sen. Rubio has never apologized for excluding law enforcement from having input on the bill, or for failing to make the changes discussed at our meeting, or for what happened at the press conference, and he has certainly never sought our input for his presidential campaign or anything else related to the immigration problems our nation now faces.
BNN: What do you make of the fact that some of the same people who funded Sen. Rubio’s immigration plan are now funding his campaign?
CRANE: I think it’s clear that open borders and amnesty proponents are trying to buy their way into the White House. I think that if elected President, Sen. Rubio’s Gang of Eight bill will be reintroduced and this time it will pass. Voters beware.
BNN: Has Sen Rubio done anything to earn back trust of law enforcement officers?
CRANE: No, not according to anyone in law enforcement that I’ve spoken with. Most law enforcement in areas hit hard by the criminal alien problem continue to resent what he attempted to do in the Gang of Eight bill and his exclusion of law enforcement from its development.
BNN: Sen. Rubio has said in several settings that he would not immediately terminate DACA or rescind amnesty papers already issued– what is your response to that as an ICE officer?
CRANE: DACA has resulted in tens of thousands of children being thrown across the U.S. border. Countless numbers of these children have been sexually assaulted, murdered or become trafficking victims – and they just keep coming.
If Sen. Rubio were truly concerned with protecting these kids, he would immediately terminate DACA and remove this carrot that continues to draw these children and place them at risk. Many politicians just don’t seem to get it: enforcing our laws saves lives; it is the truly humanitarian approach to our immigration problems.