Last October, seven Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee called for an investigation into the dismissal of hundreds of immigration cases in Houston, accusing Homeland Security officials of selectively enforcing the law. Sen. John Cornyn and six GOP colleagues on the powerful panel wrote to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano demanding a full report. Judicial Watch has obtained documentation that shows the answer they received was less than honest.
In early August 2010, Homeland Security trial attorneys started filing motions to dismiss hundreds of cases on Houston’s immigration court docket involving suspected illegal immigrants who have lived in the U.S. for more than two years supposedly without committing serious crimes. News of the dismissals caused a national controversy amid allegations that the Obama administration was implementing “backdoor amnesty” which led to the Senators sending Janet Napolitano a letter which said in part:
“It appears that your department is enforcing the law based on criteria it arbitrarily chose, with complete disregard for the enforcement laws created by Congress,” the senators wrote. “The repercussions of this decision extend beyond removal proceedings, because it discourages officers from even initiating new removal proceedings if they believe the case ultimately will be dismissed.”
DHS spokesman Matt Chandler, responded to the Senator’s letter by denying that the department was doing anything wrong.
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“The idea that DHS is engaged in ‘selective enforcement’ couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, this administration has fundamentally changed the way the federal government approaches immigration enforcement, doing more to keep criminal aliens who are threats to public safety – including murderers, rapists and child molesters – off our streets than ever before.”
The Senators also claimed that the DHS was lying about not dropping cases against illegals with a criminal record.
Republican members of the Judiciary Committee charge that the administration policy has resulted in dismissal of deportation cases against criminal aliens. “Numerous criminal aliens are being released into society and are having proceedings terminated simply because ICE has decided that such cases do not fit within the Department’s chosen enforcement priorities,” wrote the senators.
According the documents, obtained via a Judicial Watch Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit and released today, DHS officials sought the dismissal of charges against a wide range of illegal alien who have committed other crimes, including those convicted of violent crimes, despite claims by the Obama administration to the contrary.
The documents concern the response by Houston immigration officials to a June 30, 2010, memo from John Morton, Director of 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 the City of Houston taking a particularly aggressive approach to the policy’s implementation.
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…
Judicial Watch also obtained a spread sheet which 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.
I always say if people want to forgive illegal immigration what other crimes are they willing to overlook, now we have the answer.
Once the new policy became public, immigration officials went into damage control mode by sending memos 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 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.)
Last week the ICE union released to the public another policy memo from John Morton, Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The memo introduced new rules that also seemed to grant backdoor amnesty for illegal aliens.
The policy outlines a policy which seems to mirror the Dream Act which has been rejected by the congress as recently as last year. The memo calls for “prosecutorial discretion” and says officials need not enforce immigration laws if illegal immigrants are enrolled in an education center or if their relatives have volunteered for the US military.
“Any American concerned about immigration needs to brace themselves for what’s coming,” said Chris Crane, President of the National ICE Council which represents approximately 7,000 ICE agents, officers and employees, “this is just one of many new ICE policies in queue aimed at stopping the enforcement of U.S. immigration laws in the United States. Unable to pass its immigration agenda through legislation, the Administration is now implementing it through agency policy.”
“ICE and the Administration have excluded our union and our agents from the entire process of developing policies, it was all kept secret from us, we found out from the newspapers. ICE worked hand-in-hand with immigrants rights groups, but excluded its own officers.”
Sounds just like our President, who just announced a new Afghanistan policy which went against the recommendation of his top generals. This time however, he didn’t even seek the opinion of the people on the “front.” Heck why should he, there is an election to win.
What this new memo, other ICE revelations, the Judicial Watch documents, and DOJ cases such as the New Black Panther case prove, is that under the Obama administration there are two types of law enforcement, one for those of whom can help the progressives generate more votes, and one for the rest of America. Kind of makes you wonder what happened to equality under the law.
To read the entire Judicial Watch Report, click here.