ICE officers who supported President Trump during the 2016 election are growing frustrated with the lack of follow through on border-related promises, reports the Washington Times' Stephen Dinan.
In particular, Trump's promise to end the practice of arresting migrants, giving them court dates and then letting them go free (known as "catch-and-release") has not only failed to pan out - it's gone into "overdrive" according to the Times.
Instead of rounding up criminals who are in the United States illegally, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers say they are being underutilized for mundane tasks - such as "opening the doors on vans to release immigrants already caught by Border Patrol agents." Agents with the Border Patrol - a separate law enforcement agency from ICE - reportedly don't fill out their own paperwork to open the doors because "the agency's leaders don't want to be part of catch-and-release."
"Hundreds of man hours are wasted each day at a time of crisis on the border," reads a Monday letter to President Trump from the National ICE Council - the union which represents ICE officers.
The letter was sent just hours before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee voted to approve Mr. Trump’s pick, Ronald D. Vitiello, to be the new director of ICE.
Committee Chairman Ron Johnson waved a copy of the ICE Council’s letter during the vote and called the accusations “troubling.”
“We’re going to get to the bottom of this,” he told reporters afterward.
In the letter, the ICE Council said its president, Chris Crane, personally told Mr. Trump about the situation in a January meeting, and the council was disappointed nothing has been done. -Washington Times
"You frequently speak publicly of the great public safety work ICE is doing under your leadership. To be direct Mr. President — the rhetoric doesn’t match reality and we hope that this letter shows you the complete and total nonsense that is really taking place under the Trump Administration on the southern border," reads the letter - which comes after some 160,000 migrant children and families have been intercepted at the border over the last five months alone.
While most of them have been arrested by the Border Patrol, around 10-15 percent of those detained are encountered by Customs and Border Protection officers.
Homeland Security responds
Responding to the National ICE Council, the Department of Homeland Security said: "We have repeatedly sounded the alarm with Congress as resources are being stretched across DHS as agencies work to contain this historic surge," adding "ICE and CBP are fully engaged on a coordinated response and continue to update Congress on the challenges faced by our agents and officers at the border."
ICE officers countered that while Congress could change some of the big policies, the “utter nonsense” decision to make ICE come along for the van rides is something Homeland Security could stop on its own.
The ICE Council said officers are being taken from terrorism task forces, fugitive operations and the Criminal Alien Program to do paperwork and van-opening.
One field team reported being moments from arresting felons, only to be told to back off. That wasn’t as high a priority as opening the van doors, or filling out the Border Patrol’s paperwork, the letter says.
Mr. Crane said one ICE office in Texas spends perhaps a third of its manpower facilitating CBP’s catch-and-release.
The ICE officers blamed both Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and Mr. Vitiello, a former Border Patrol agent who’s been serving since last June as acting director at ICE. -Washington Times
Meanwhile, Vitiello was approved by the Homeland Security Committee to become a full director in a 7-5 vote on Monday evening, however he still must pass through the Judiciary Committee for an eventual floor vote.